Trump Is Right About One Thing: Shaking Hands Is Kinda Gross

Donald Trump is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist, birther and… germaphobe?

The Republican front-runner has called himself a “clean hands freak” and has referred to hand-shaking as “one of the curses of American society,” according to The Washington Post. In fact, Trump doesn’t even like to push a ground floor elevator button, according to Mother Jones, because it has been touched by so many others.

But what really is germaphobia, scientifically speaking — and is Trump right to be grossed out by other people’s hands?

Germaphobia, also known by the medical term mysophobia, is defined by high levels of distress when a person is confronted with real or imagined dirtiness and contamination.

At its most severe, it’s a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder, a mental health condition characterized by obsessive thoughts (for instance, worries that a surface is dirty or a fear of harm coming to loved ones) and compulsive actions performed as a way to rid oneself of the thoughts.

On a milder, subclinical level, however, many people have some level of concern over germ exposure — and those worries aren’t completely off-base.

When it comes to shaking hands in particular, there is some validity to Trump’s concerns. Our hands can carry all sorts of germs, including bacteria and viruses, Dr. David Whitworth, a biochemist at Aberystwyth University who has studied the transmission of infections, told The Huffington Post in an email.

“Flu can be transferred by touch, but so can fecal bacteria and hospital superbugs like MRSA” or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, he said.

Infections like the norovirus spread easily by hand-to-hand contact, and one study conducted by Whitworth and his colleagues found that a single handshake can transfer hundreds of millions of colony-forming units of —> Read More