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TIME TO MAKE A DECENT FIST OF IT; Denis Kilcommons Looking at life with our ever-popular columnist

WE live in a society that is self-conscious about hygiene. During the season of colds and flu, the message is to wipe door knobs and banisters and avoid touching anything on public transport unless wearing a surgical mask and rubber gloves.

Kitchen surfaces should always be swabbed with disinfectant. Hospital visitors are asked to use hand-wash.

Ensuring personal cleanliness is a strictly imposed condition on staff in restaurants and pubs.

So how about shaking hands? We take this simple greeting for granted. Yet it is an easy way to spread infection.

Researchers at Aberystwyth University ran a series of tests on hand hygiene and found that shaking hands passes on high doses of germs.

If a high five is used, instead, this risk is halved. Safest of all is a fist bump, which reduces contagion by 90%.

This is not a new suggestion. During the swine flu pandemic of 2009, the Dean of Calgary University in Canada suggested a fist bump would reduce the risk of passing on the virus.

So where did it come from? It's said to have started as a boxer's handshake in the 1800s, was used by motorcycle gangs in America in the 1940s and became popular among basketball players in the 1970s.

Barack and Michelle Obama made it world famous when they bumped fists spontaneously after a Presidential election speech.

In my younger days, the only infections anybody seemed worried about were flu and the common cold, which were easily confused by blokes who always got flu, while ladies only ever had a cold. But this is the age of the virus and everybody needs to take care and bumping fists seems a reasonable precaution. I've never done it in my life, but what's good enough for a President, is good enough for me.

My wife Maria says that, as I'm particularly susceptible to flu, I should take extra precautions when a virus is about. She suggests I cover my mouth as well. Gaffer tape, she assures me, is available in a range of sweater-matching colours.

"I can fit a straw through it," she said, "so you can drink."

What a caring nature. "But I won't be able to talk?" I said.

"And you won't be able to complain when you get a cold and call it flu."


I may not take Maria's recommendation that I use gaffer tape to cover my mouth but I'm not ruling out a surgical mask

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Title Annotation:News; Opinion; Columns
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Aug 4, 2014
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