Handshakes transfer double the amount of bacteria that you'll get from a hi-five greeting – but fist bumps have the lowest risk of transmission.

Health experts have recommended avoiding shaking people’s hands in order to avoid the risk of being infected with the Covid-19 virus, which was declared an international public health emergency by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in January 2020.

A study in the American Journal of Infection Control shows that greeting someone with a handshake increases the risk of viral transfer significantly – and early experience suggests the same is true of the novel coronavirus first recorded in Wuhan, China.

Transmission risk increases with greater surface area contact. Other variables include contact time and grip strength, both of which increase the risk of transmission. 

A different study found an up to four-fold reduction in bacterial transfer through fist bumps compared to a handshakes. 

Bacterial transmission can be reduced by up to 50% through hi-fives and up to 90% through fist bumps, and some even suggest banning the handshake entirely in clinical settings.  

Experiments at Aberystwyth University in Wales have revealed how fist bumps are more "hygienic".

In South Africa, where the most common greetings are handshakes, it can be difficult to avoid this convention in a social or business setting. 

If the greeting is unavoidable, an alternative could be to carry a sanitiser with a high alcohol content, which can have a bactericidal effect of up 95%

Although this does not mitigate the risk of transmission, it is a quick option to get rid of any bacteria that might have transferred during the handshake already.

(Compiled by Willem Muller)

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