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The Flu Virus Likes Money July 16, 2007

Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Diseases, Human Body, Think About It.

The flu virus likes money so much that it can survive on banknotes for longer than researchers originally suspected. Yves Thomas and other researchers at the University Hospitals of Geneva in Switzerland recently looked at how long the flu virus can remain alive on banknotes. Because billions of banknotes are exchanged on a daily basis, the potential to pass on the flu virus is huge, so scientists wanted to see just how easy-or difficult-it is for the flu virus to survive on banknotes.

Here’s What They Did

The researchers dribbled several different strains of the flu virus onto Swiss banknotes. The plan was to leave them for varying amounts of time at room temperature, before assessing the banknotes for the presence of the live flu virus. The results were really interesting and a bit worrying at the same time.

Swiss Banknote

What’s Your Verdict?

Before you read on, try taking a guess at the results. What’s the longest you think the flu virus lived on the banknotes? Do you think the strain of the virus made a difference? I’ll also give you a hint to the results: the scientists tweaked the experiment by adding another ‘ingredient’ into the mix. This ingredient made the flu virus last even longer. Any guess what it is?

The Flu Virus Lives On

Although some strains of the flu lasted a mere couple of hours, other strains-including the most common type-lasted up to 72 hours. But wait until you read what happened next! When the researchers added drops of human nasal mucus along with the flu virus, some of the strains survived for up to 17 days. In fact, one of the strains of flu virus lasted only a couple of hours alone, but when combined with the human nasal mucus, it lasted a whopping 24 hours. Why does the flu virus like mucus so much? Because it’s wet. The flu virus likes nice, moist environments. Since mucus retains water so well, it stays really wet. Well, it’s nice for the flu virus but not so nice for the person who catches the flu.

Tissue Box

So What Does This All Mean?

It means money is one way that the flu virus can spread. We all know that the flu is transmitted by touching, which is why we frequently hear advice about ‘washing hands’ to prevent the spread. The same goes for money too. The flu virus is shed within your nasal secretions, so if you blow your nose and then touch a banknote, the virus can live on for a long time-or at least long enough to infect someone else with the virus. I think the flu virus is a sneaky little creature but between washing your hands and taking care when blowing your nose, you can help to stop the virus from spreading.

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