handshakeThe headline was sobering – U.S report predicts 30,000 to 90,000 deaths and over 2 million will contract H1N1 this flu season.

Standing in line at a local convenience market, I couldn’t help but find this USA Today headline disturbing – despite the fact over 30,000 die from regular flu viruses each year.

As several people exchanged money and grabbed the counter and door handles, I couldn’t help but think about my own strategy to prevent contracting this disease as the pandemic continues to linger and pose new threats this season.

With all the talk about social media lately, it’s interesting to note that one of the best ways to avoid the virus is a “social distancing” strategy. Sure, I’m finding myself using a hand sanitizer more often now, but one of the possibilities on my list is doing away with the handshake custom.

For those of us in the business community, that’s hard to consider. Extending your hand at a business or social function is almost an impulse. Even my father and everyone else in my family always taught the lesson of a good handshake too.

It’s clearly an awkward situation when you refuse to shake another person’s hand. Some would consider an insult at the very least.

Regardless of the argument about how many people wash their hands after a visit to the toilet or what biologicals find their way onto the hands we shake. Handshakes spread germs and it may time to consider another alternative.

The handshake is a custom that’s been around for a long time. Wikipedia suggests the extending of one’s hand originated as a gesture of peace – proving to another you didn’t hold a weapon. That notion takes on a different perspective though when we consider the fact we may be passing along a microscopic killer.

I’m not going “Howard Hughes” on you yet and my OCD tendencies still involve computers for the most part.

Still yet, I find myself opting for a different greeting strategy and trust my best friends won’t consider it a rebuff. After all, I’ve got both of us in mind. I’d prefer that neither of us become sick or pass along anything other than good tidings.

This isn’t a new idea either as others are starting to consider the same concern.

An entire German city has banned the practice, posting signs that read – “We do not give you the hand, but we give you a smile.”

Recently an Internet startup was reported to ban handshakes in corporate meetings, opting instead for the “sanitary” fist bump instead.

Brad Feld is an MIT tech-entrepreneur who earlier in the year declared “No Handshakes in 2009” and started his own movement. He was tired of being sick all the time, but found out that he despised telling the story over and over again as to why he wasn’t shaking hands and abandoned his battle-cry.

Old habits are hard to break and my hope is that we question whether it’s time to consider another gesture. The fist bump is trendy (I like the one that explodes) and the shoulder grab is another one that might be a bit more safe too.

The Zen masters already have a great practice of bowing in the East and I must admit that if the greeting involves a pretty girl – how about a hug?

Let the revolution continue and here’s to a happy and safe flu season and we don’t have to shake on it.