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Graduation contamination
Date:5/16/2011

Graduations are a celebration of achievement and growth, but could all the pomp and circumstance increase your risk of exposure to harmful bacteria? A team of researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health examined the risk of acquiring pathogenic bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) through shaking hands at graduation ceremonies across Maryland. A handshake, a short ritual in which two people grasp one of each other's opposite hands, dates back as far as the 5th century BCE. This gesture has become ingrained in modern society as a standard greeting and part of the traditional graduation ceremony. Researchers swabbed participants' hands before and immediately following graduation to identify any pathogenic bacteria and found 93 percent of samples contained nonpathogenic bacteria. Their results are featured in the June 2011 issue of the Journal of School Nursing.

"A single handshake offers only a small risk of acquiring harmful bacteria," said David Bishai, MD, PhD, MPH, professor with the Bloomberg School's Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health. "Our study indicates when shaking hands, the rate of hand contamination among graduating students to be 100 times lower than the 17 percent rate observed among health workers caring for patients known to be colonized with MRSA. Reasons for the lower rate of contamination at graduations include the much briefer and less-extensive contact in a handshake and what we presume is a lower prevalence of MRSA in graduating students compared to hospital patients. Another reason may be that subsequent handshakes could remove pathogens acquired in an earlier handshake."

Researchers conducted a repeated measures observational study among select elementary, secondary and post-secondary school graduations in May of 2008. They measured bacteriological culture from each hand of school officials immediately a
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Contact: Natalie Wood-Wright
nwoodwri@jhsph.edu
410-614-6029
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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