Influenza and Money

According to a recent Applied and Environmental Microbiology paper, influenza viruses are able to survive on banknotes. Lookie, bar graphs:

(from the paper) Duration of infectiousness according to the size of the initial inoculum and the presence or absence of mucus. Influenza A/Moscow/10/99 (H3N2) virus was deposited in triplicate on banknotes at the following concentrations, each in the presence (H3m) or absence (H3) of respiratory mucus: (A) 8.9 x 10e5 TCID50/ml; (B) 4.4 x 10e5 TCID50/ml; (C) 2.2 x 10e5 TCID50/ml; (D) 1.1 x 10e5 TCID50/ml. (E) Similarly, influenza B/Hong Kong/335/2001 virus was deposited at a concentration of 3.2 x 10e3 TCID50/ml in the presence (Bm) or absence (B) of respiratory mucus.
Basically, if the influenza virus is in snot when it hits the bill, it will survive for 24 hours or longer. The authors conclude:

We showed that infectious virus can survive for several days on banknotes. This requires a relatively large inoculum and the presence of a protective matrix, such as respiratory mucus. Pandemic events depend on the presence of sufficient quantities of virus with pandemic properties, as well as suitable vehicles for its transmission, including environmental vectors, such as banknotes. The results of our study show that influenza virus stability is not the sole determining factor in a pandemic. As hundreds of billions of banknotes are probably exchanged every day worldwide, infection from hands contaminated with virus picked up from virus-contaminated banknotes cannot be totally ignored. Given the unexpected stability of influenza virus in this nonbiological environment, our current understanding of the conditions favoring influenza virus survival needs to be revised, particularly in the context of pandemic preparedness.

At least with this metric (and only this metric), the euro is probably doing as poorly as the dollar.

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4 Responses to Influenza and Money

  1. whitney says:

    heh, nice endnote. link’s not working right now; will follow up later. can you really talk about virus “survival?” am i just being semantic here, or is it important to keep in mind that they aren’t *actually* alive?
    i remember hearing a while back that most paper currency contains traces of illegal drugs, so that if the police *want* to seize your cash if you’re accosted for a minor infraction, they *can.* urban legend? not sure. i’m not aware of any charts/graphs that back it up…

  2. Jim Thomerson says:

    I recall a study, many years ago, which found that money was the main transmission pathway for Montezuma’s Revenge.

  3. Mariah says:

    LOL. I had an…um…eccentric ex-boyfriend at one point, who would never touch the buttons on an ATM machine. He always brought a pen, or used the corner of a credit card, or something.
    And then he always grabbed the cash, barehanded. I was never sure if I should encourage the phobia by explaining the part about the money, or discourage the quirks.

  4. themadlolscientist says:

    @ whitney: That’s what they used to say when I was working in a bank in a former life. But even there no one seemed to be able to (or want to?) cite any evidence.
    I must say I was surprised at how few colds and other pesky bugs I picked up in my years in banking. I used to get one or two fairly mild colds a year, and that was it. I don’t know why; it’s not as if I washed my hands every five minutes or anything. Most of my coworkers weren’t nearly so lucky. The only thing I did differently was to keep a can of ordinary wet wipes around to wipe the ink off my fingers every once in a while. Maybe that was enough. Who knows?
    I have to laugh though. I’ve known of at least 3 or 4 people who would literally launder their money on account of germ phobia. My former significant other remembers going to his grandmother’s house and seeing bills hanging up to dry on clotheslines in one of the rooms.
    Of course there are times when that sort of money laundering can be useful. My ex used to work the cotton candy booth at the college spring fair, and you can imagine the condition of the money afterwards. When they took it to the bank, the teller advised them in all seriousness to put it all in one of those mesh bags and run it through the delicate cycle just like a sweater.
    Never argue with what works. (I can’t remember if they put it through the dryer afterwards, although I suspect they did.)

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