The headline screamed “School’s handshaking policy causes Norovirus nightmares” & the mind started racing. After all my fondest nickname at the hospital was ‘hand washing doc’ aka doctora ghaseel ( in Arabic) . A firm handshake transfers on average 124 million live bacteria. A headmistress of grammar school in Turnbridge wells mandated a handshake policy that all teachers and pupils greet each other at the start of the day. Her main aim was to help students feel respected whilst the parents were apprehensive about the germs transferred & the number of sick days off thereafter!
At the beginning of the flu season the concern is a real one. The viruses are transferred between human hosts more through contaminated hands than through aerosols. Most people cover their mouths & nose to protect the others from the virus shower when nursing a cold & then blithely proceed to shake hands or touch others with those very hands doing exactly what they wanted to prevent.
Norovirus threat too looms large & if hundreds of students were touching a potentially infected teacher’s hands , then an outbreak of Norovirus causing serious vomiting & diarrhea is real when those very fingers transfer the viruses to the mouth & onwards.
The well meaning school head means well to introduce responsible behavior & respect in a boys school following on the practice in Swiss schools. A teacher remarked that a smile & handshake makes the students feel welcome & respected at the start of the class but scientifically is it worth its while? The head teacher argues that students will anyway touch the hand rails, knobs & other surfaces so what will the mere handshake change & hand sanitizers are anyway available to disinfect.
That brings me to the safest way to greet another human, a namastey. A benign greeting with folded hands, a mild bow of head & a smile practiced widely in the eastern cultures. Isn’t that the safest way to greet anyone without any skin to skin contact & transfer opportunity for any dangerous bugs. Food for thought…..