You are at risk of the following diseases from handshakes:
1. Eye Infections
Eye infections such as conjunctivitis and trachoma can spread through handshakes. Conjunctivitis is an infection of the covering of the eyeball caused by viruses or bacteria; there is redness of the eye and increased discharge of fluid. This fluid contains the germs (viruses/bacteria), if hand is used to wipe off the fluid or tissue/handkerchief is used, the hand can become contaminated and remains contaminated if not washed with soap and water.
Trachoma is caused by an organism called chlamydia trachomatis and is one of the commonest causes of blindness. It also increases eye secretions which can contaminate the hands of the affected person. Hand shake can pass the germs on.
2. Hepatitis A
Hepatitis is an infection of the liver caused by different types of viruses. Hepatitis A is caused by Hepatitis A virus; it spreads mostly through the faeco-oral route by contaminated food, water and fingers, that is, faeces containing the virus contaminating food, water and fingers.
The unwashed hands of an infected person can pass the virus to someone else through handshake. The virus is contained mostly in faeces (shit) but can also be present in urine and blood. That is why you must wash your hands after using the toilet whether you are sick or not.
Meningitis is a highly contagious disease which spreads from person to person. It is a disease of the cover of the brain and spinal cord. It is found all over the world but more common in crowded communities with poor ventilation. In Nigeria, it is more common in the northern part which lies within the “Meningitis Belt”. People in all ages can have the disease but those under 30 years are more at risk.
Meningitis is caused by several agents on individual basis. It could be due to bacteria, virus, fungi, parasites or even injuries or cancer.
The way meningitis spreads from person to person depends on the agent that caused the disease. If caused by bacteria, it will spread through coughing, sneezing if close to the sick person or discharges can be blown as droplets/nuclei later to other persons. It can also spread through kissing, sharing lip sticks/lip savers, tooth brushes etc.
If caused by a virus, it spreads by faecal (Stool) contamination of hands resulting from failure to wash hands thoroughly after using the toilet or changing baby diapers. There are other means of spread but these two are the most important. Hand shake can pass the germs on.
4. Diarrhoea and Dysentery
Diarrhoea is the passage of watery stools more than three times a day. In the case of dysentery, stooling is also loose and more than three times but mixed with blood and mucus.
Diarrhoea is caused by over twenty five different types of bacteria, viruses and parasites while dysentery is caused by a bacterium called shigella in most cases.
The germs causing diarrhea and dysentery are passed in stool and can contaminate the hands of an infected. They can then be passed on through handshake if contaminated hands are not properly washed.
5. Typhoid Fever
Typhoid fever is common in developing countries with poor water and sanitation facilities.
Globally, the disease affects millions of people annually, mostly in Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and South America, killing millions.
Typhoid fever spreads through contaminated food and water. The agent is passed out in the stool of an infected person, it may also be present in his urine, spite or vomit.
Food can be contaminated by flies which can carry the agent from the stool of an infected person or by contaminated hands while preparing food if not well washed after using the toilet. The contaminated hand of an infected person can contaminate the hand of someone else through handshake.
6. Lassa Fever
Lassa feveris caused by Lassa virus; it is named after the village where the virus was first identified. The virus belongs to a group of viruses which cause haemorrhagic fevers such dengue fever, Ebola fever, yellow fever and so forth.
The reservoir of infection is a particular type of rat—the Natal multimammate mouse which is found in sub-Saharan Africa. It is normally resident in the bush but is driven into houses during bush burning during the dry season.
The virus lives and multiplies in the rat. It is contained in the urine and stool of rats. The urine can contaminate exposed food and man contracts the disease if he eats the contaminated food. The stool can become dried up and with dust can be breathed in during sweeping of the floor or in a windy situation.
It spreads from person to person through direct contact with body fluids-saliva, nasal discharge, blood of infected persons.
The contaminated hand of an infected person can contaminate the hand of someone else through handshake.
7. Human Papilloma Virus Infection
Genital warts are caused by Human papilloma virus, which can lead to cancer of the cervix.
The virus is present in the warts and hands of the affected or care provider can easily be contaminated. Some studies have shown than the disease can spread through handshakes with the contaminated hands infecting the genitals if touched without washing the hands thoroughly first.
8. Genital Herpes
Herpes genitalis is caused by herpes simplex 1 and herpes simplex 2, it is common in the 15 to 49 years age bracket.
It presents itself in the form of blisters affecting the penis, vagina, anus, rectum and mouth; the blisters break down to form painful sores which last for about a week or two. The sores are highly infectious as they contain the virus and you can infect yourself by touching the sores and then touching other parts of your body without washing your hands thoroughly first.