'We Shouldn't Shake Hands, Ever': US Expert Fauci Says Breaking the Social Custom Could Benefit Many

US' top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci has said that Americans should never shake hands again, underlining that such a change would not only prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus but also decrease the instances of influenza dramatically in the country.

Fauci, who is the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a lead member of the White House Task Force on Coronavirus said that washing hands should be a must in people's daily routine.

"I don't think we should ever shake hands ever again, to be honest with you, Fauci told The Wall Street Journal in a podcast interview.

Not only would it be good to prevent coronavirus disease, it probably would decrease instances of influenza dramatically in this country," he said.

Over the past several weeks, Fauci has emerged as a key figure in the war against coronavirus and has been the most vocal against hand shakes.

"As a society, just forget about shaking hands. We don't need to shake hands. We've got to break that custom," he told Sinclair Broadcast Group in another interview on Tuesday.

"Because as a matter of fact, that is one of the major ways you can transmit a respiratory-borne illness," he said.

Responding to a question on the possible measures to be taken to contain the spread of the virus, he said, "When you gradually come back, you don't jump into it with both feet. You say, what are the things you could still do and still approach normal? One of them is absolute compulsive hand-washing. The other is you don't ever shake anybody's hands."

In the recent weeks, President Donald Trump too has been talking about doing away with the hand shake, which is a part and parcel of the American culture.

"And, frankly, much of the guidelines like shaking hands maybe people aren't going to be shaking hands anymore. You know, Tony had mentioned to me, Tony Fauci, the other day that I don't think he would be too upset with the concept of not shaking hands, Trump told reporters during a White House news conference last month.

He was saying that the flu would cut down, the regular flu would be cut down by quite a bit if we didn't do that, if we didn't shake hands," he said.

The Harvard Medical Gazette recently said that some have begun to wonder if the universal form of greeting, acknowledgement or sealing a deal may become a thing of the past.

In the past few weeks, the practise has rapidly vanished, replaced by fist bumps and peace signs, head nods and foot taps, all in an effort to limit the close contact that helps the virus spread, it said.

Because this is a pandemic, because there is virtually no population immunity, and because we know that people can transmit while being either presymptomatic or showing minimal symptoms, every handshake that you have runs the risk of exposing you or the person you are shaking hands with to the virus, William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, was quoted as saying by the Harvard Medical Gazette.

Even the elbow bump puts people in closer contact, Hanage said, recommending the Hindu namaste greeting: a slight bow with the hands pressed together in a prayer pose over the heart.

According to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Centre, US has the highest number of infections in the world at 432,132 and the disease has claimed 14,817 lives in the country.

Globally, 88,538 people have died due to coronavirus and nearly 1.5 million people have been infected.