This One Item You Touch Every Day Puts You Most at Risk of Coronavirus

Cash may be convenient, but it could also be deadly in the time of COVID-19.

With the threat of coronavirus lurking on our commonly used surfaces, many people have been vigilantly disinfecting everything in sight, but they're likely overlooking the most nefarious coronavirus host of all—paper money. Cold hard cash changes hands sometimes dozens of times in a day and remains in circulation for years without any disinfection. Everyone has cash hiding somewhere, whether in their pockets, purse, or junk drawer, but it's best to leave those dollar bills alone until after the coronavirus pandemic passes.

Money is notoriously filthy and proven to carry bacteria and viruses, which rapidly facilitates the spread of disease. A 2017 study published in PLOS One looked at a dollar from a bank in New York City and found hundreds of diverse species of microorganisms living on the bill. The most common were ones that cause acne and various skin bacteria. However, the study also recorded traces of microbes from the mouth, vaginal bacteria, viruses, and DNA from pets.

As for COVID-19, a study published in The Lancet found that the coronavirus can survive on banknotes for up to four days. Of course, you can't get sick by simply touching the money. You would have to transfer the viable coronavirus particles to your eyes, nose, or mouth in order to become contaminated, but that's easier to do than it sounds. Touching your phone, fixing your mask, adjusting your glasses, or grabbing your keys could lead to cross-contamination, making it possible for the microorganisms from the money to infect you through any of your facial orifices.

Hands touching paper money

China understood the threat that cash posed in spreading coronavirus early on, so in February, when cases started mounting, Chinese banks began disinfecting their bills using ultraviolet or heat treatments. According to CNBC, money was removed from high-risk sites, including hospitals and markets, to be specially sterilized.

Until we're on the other side of the coronavirus pandemic, it would be sensible for people to avoid using cash to limit hand-to-hand transactions. Opt for a credit or debit card, or better yet, use contactless transactions like Apple Pay when shopping. If you do pay with your credit or debit card, practice extra caution and wipe it down with disinfectant afterward. And for more tips on how to limit your risk, check out The One Vitamin You Need to Take to Reduce Your Coronavirus Risk.

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