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N.Y. youth club nixes high fives, handshakes as influenza outbreak rages

By Charles Boehm

As with much of the United States, a particularly severe flu season has raged through New York this winter, with nearly four times as many cases reported across the state so far this season as were encountered during all of last winter. Hospitals have been overrun with people seeking treatment, and flu vaccines have become a scarce commodity across the region and beyond.

That has prompted Manhattan Soccer Club to issue a club-wide directive discouraging its players from the usual ritual of slapping or shaking hands with opposing teams after games, and touch elbows instead, in order to reduce the transmission of germs.

“There have been increasing Influenza cases this winter so we just want to remind families of some strategies for decreasing the spread of the Flu within the club,” read an email reportedly distributed among club members.

“Players should practice good hand hygiene by washing hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer…At this point the MSC Board and the coaching staff would recommend that players not shake/touch hands with opponents after the games. The safest thing to do is to touch elbows. The coach or manager can explain this to the other team prior to the game.”

The move has drawn plenty of media attention, with a local TV station even producing a feature news report on it.

“We just thought it would be prudent to have some safety protocols in place for the kids,” Dr. Valerie Parkas, MSC’s president as well as an infectious disease specialist at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in Manhattan.

“At the end of the game, they’ll meet each other and give each other an elbow.”

[ +Read CBS2 New York’s full report here ]