Hold that hug

One of the recommendations for staying was to refrain from physical contact as we greet people, handshakes, hugs, kisses. It seems that at least 10% of Americans have taken that advice.

Harvard survey: Swine flu in, affection out


ATLANTA (AP) — Thanks to swine flu, there’s a little less hugging and kissing in the United States.

About one in 10 Americans have stopped hugging and kissing close friends or relatives because of concerns about swine flu, according to a survey released Friday. About the same number have stopped shaking hands.

Health officials have emphasized other measures to prevent spread of the virus, like washing hands and using hand sanitizers. The survey found about two-thirds of Americans are taking such steps.

“This outbreak has permeated a lot of American life,” said Robert Blendon, the Harvard School of Public Health researcher who led the polling.


The telephone survey also found about six in 10 Americans are not currently worried that they or someone in their immediate family will get sick from the virus in the next year. The level of concern has been declining, Blendon said.


I am not much of one to hug or kiss folk beyond my husband; however, in my , professional life the ubiquitous handshake is nearly inescapable. I “arm” myself as well as is socially acceptable, with hand sanitizer prominently on my desk and squirreled away in my purse for just those inescapable moments of social etiquette.

I remember reading during the earlier considerations of a pandemic of H5N1 that we, as a society, might wish to consider the Japanese bow as a form of formal greeting. I found that an excellent suggestion, and when I believe I can “get away” with it, a smile and a polite bob of my head is what I proffer.

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4 Responses to Hold that hug

  1. Katie says:

    It kind of goes back to this idea that our desire for human contact is what’s going to be our biggest problem.

    It is our desire as the human race to live in groups and the development of civilization that allows disease to run rampantly through our populations.

    But…honestly…it would be a sad, lonely life otherwise. I love the idea of community…but I recognize that community lends itself to larger issues.

  2. SophiaZoe says:

    Good morning Katie!

    Yes, human beings are social animals, at least most are. Though, I’ve often been heard to say that I prefer my dogs over people and my books above everything.

    Your comment sent my mind cartwheeling along several different lines of thought: complexity and density, sociobiology, Thomas Malthus, polio, scarlet fever, plague…. Really, though, it boils down to only one thing… we do not exist in a bubble and the issues we face do not exist separate unto themselves, even if the human mind cannot efficiently juggle more than two variables at once.

  3. R0 is of this flu 1,40. we also know that 25% of family members are infected ie R0 of 1.25. Which leaves R0 1,15 for other people. So your greatest risk is not other people but your own family. Washing hands reduces the R0 1,15 not your family risk.

  4. SophiaZoe says:


    How do you arrive at your R0? By only using officially confirmed cases you would miss all the others that have not been tested, and there are many of those. By using anything other than officially confirmed cases you would be estimating at a time when there is no epidemiological data to make and informed estimation.

    I actually suspect R0 is much closer to or slightly greater than 2… but that is nothing more than a very unscientific guess based on the daily increases in confirmed cases. I have always assumed R0 for a truly novel influenza virus would be > 4.

    I have a significant interest in the issue and would be greatly interested in your assumptions.