By Clifton Leaf and Sy Mukherjee
May 30, 2017

Greetings, readers! This is Sy, back from vacation (speaking of—a massive thank you to my colleague Laura Entis, who so generously took over Daily production duties while I was out). I hope you enjoyed your long weekend.

The handshake is one of the most prominent social customs in the world, a near-universal greeting which elegantly allows strangers and friends alike to say hello. Unfortunately, it can come with a hazardous side effect: spreading potentially deadly germs.

That’s a big problem in places crowded with the sick and physically vulnerable—especially hospitals. And this reality led UCLA doctors to test out a novel idea: handshake-free zones in neonatal intensive care units (NICU).

“To help reduce the spread of germs, our NICU is now a handshake-free zone. Please find other ways to greet each other,” reads a sign at the NICU which is accompanied by a picture of two clasped hands with a big “no-no” slash through them.

“We are trying to do everything to minimize hospital-acquired infection except for the most obvious and easiest thing to do in my opinion, which is to stop shaking hands,” UCLA professor of pediatrics and cardiologist Dr. Mark Sklansky tells NPR.

The no-handshake zones obviously aren’t a cure-all against hospital-acquired infections, which afflict 4% of patients. But, as Sklansky and his colleagues note, they’re a pretty simple prophylactic measure, especially considering that a sizable number of health care workers (and patients’ family members) don’t adhere to strict hospital hygiene protocols.

And the UCLA experiment appears to have popular support among staff and others, according to a study published in the American Journal of Infection Control. “The [handshake-free zone] decreased the frequency of handshakes within the NICU,” wrote the study authors, adding that, “[p]atient families and most HCPs supported the implementation of an HFZ.”

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


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