can fist bumps help cut down on hospital acquired infections

It’s an everyday occurrence at sports stadiums, high schools and fraternity houses around the nation: the fist bump. For those unfamiliar with this gesture, it has essentially supplanted the high-five as the go-to casual greeting of choice among men.

In fact, thanks to a recently released study by researchers at the University of West Virginia, another unlikely venue — hospitals — may soon be added to the list of places where you are most likely to witness this primitive yet popular salutation.

In general, hospitals across the U.S. have become increasingly concerned about the spread of potentially deadly nosocomial infections, which typically occur within 48 hours of admission, three days of discharge or 30 days of surgery, and cost upwards of $10 billion to treat every year.

To help rectify this problem, many hospitals and health care organizations have launched hand-washing campaigns designed to raise awareness among hospital staff about the importance of proper sanitization procedures and the dangers of failing to follow them.

Recognizing that handshakes can serve as an effective medium through which to transfer bacteria from medical professionals to patients, the researchers set out to establish whether a smaller number of bacteria/germs were transmitted when medical professionals opted for a fist bump rather than a handshake.

As part of the study, two health care workers were instructed to wash their hands according to standard hospital procedures, and shake the hands of 20 fellow health care workers as they made their way through the hospital. Afterward, researchers took cultures of their hands to test for the presence of bacteria. This process was again repeated using a fist bump instead of a handshake.

Shockingly, the researchers discovered that the presence of bacteria after the handshakes was four times greater than after the fist bumps.

“We have determined that implementing the fist bump in the healthcare setting may further reduce bacterial transmission between healthcare providers by reducing contact time and total surface area exposed when compared with the standard handshake,” reads the study.

While the study is, of course, limited in its size and scope, and merits further analysis, it does raise some very interesting points about just how important hand washing is in hospital settings, and how it may be time to consider new infection control strategies.

Please consider speaking with an experienced and dedicated attorney if you or a loved one has suffered unduly because of a hospital-acquired infection.

Source: MedCity News, “Want to spread fewer germs in hospitals? Ditch the handshake, go for a fist bump,” Deanna Pogorelc, Nov. 26, 2013; FierceHealthcare, “Want to cut HAIs? Try a fist bump,” Ron Shinkman, Nov. 27, 2013

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