The influenza virus can survive on paper money for 10 or more days — suggesting that when we shop, spend and bank, there’s more than cash that is changing hands.
The link between flu virus and paper currency is explained this week in a story on SmartMoney.com. The findings don’t mean we should fret about handling currency — but it does illustrate why health officials repeatedly tell people to wash hands frequently. From the SmartMoney report:
Generally speaking, scientists interviewed by SmartMoney estimate the lifetime of a plain flu virus deposited on money at an hour or so. But mix in some human nasal mucus, and the potential for the virus to hang on long enough to find a victim increases, according to one of the few scientific studies done on flu transmission through cash.
In a study conducted at Switzerland’s Central Laboratory of Virology at the University Hospitals of Geneva, researchers tested to see what would happen when flu virus was placed on Swiss franc notes. In some of these tests, researchers placed flu virus mixed in with nasal secretions from children on banknotes —and saw some unexpected results.
When protected by human mucus, the flu cells were much hardier—in some cases, lasting up to 17 days on the franc notes. The virus that persisted for 17 days was a form of influenza A called H3N2. In an e-mail interview, Dr. Yves Thomas said samples of an influenza A strain called H1N1 also endured for quite a bit — in some cases, up to 10 days. That bug was similar but not identical to the virus at the center of the current swine flu outbreak, which is considered a new strain of H1N1.
more at http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/01/catching-flu-from-money/?em