The Facts About Handling Dirty Money and the Potential Threat to Your Health
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The Facts About Handling Dirty Money and the Potential Threat to Your Health

Few people know that something they use daily - computer keyboards - are especially dirty as, on average, they contain 70 times more microbes than a lavatory seat! So what about the MONEY, which we all handle on a daily basis? Along with the current scare regarding what are called "Super Bugs" we all need to know where the hidden dangers lie.

Transmission of germs: can a disease Super Bug be passed on by handling money?

Few people know that something they use daily - computer keyboards - are especially dirty as, on average, they contain 70 times more microbes than a lavatory seat! Some microbes, especially pathogenic (i.e. able to cause disease) microbes are harmful, since they invade and grow within other organisms, causing diseases that kill people, animals and plants. So what about the MONEY, which we all handle on a daily basis? Along with the current scare regarding what are called "Super Bugs" we all need to know where the hidden dangers lie.

Is the danger not worth worrying about?

Well, to to demonstrate what happens when money moves around, some useful experiments were carried out:

A web site, called "Where's George" was assisted more than 4.5 million volunteer registered users, They asked site visitors to register the denomination, series and serial number of any U.S. dollar bill, along with their current ZIP or post code.

The web site administrators then tracked the movement of more than 142 million different bills, with a total value of over US$687 million dollars.

Whilst this began as a just-for-fun project, it is now beginning to have real-world implications: mathematical models developed to describe the geographic spread of money mapped using the data are now being applied to models of the spread of infectious disease.

In yet another study carried out by a Chemistry team based at Ireland's Dublin City University, found that every single note from a random sample analyzed tested positive for cocaine, and some for cocaine as well.

Cocaine Sniffing

In the United States, reports are that it is not as rosy as some people may think. When researchers at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio tested a random sampling of dollar bills, they found that 94% of the bills were contaminated with bacteria known to cause either serious or mild illness. Whether or not swine flu can be transmitted through money is not yet known. The Japanese sanitize money coming out of an ATM by "flash-heating" it for a millisecond at 342 degrees.

In everyday life, how are disease-carrying organisms passed on?

They are passed directly from one person to another by one or more of the following means:

  • droplet contact – coughing or sneezing on another person
  • direct physical contact – touching an infected person, including sexual contact
  • indirect physical contact – usually by touching soil contamination or a contaminated surface
  • airborne transmission – if the microorganism can remain in the air for long periods
  • fecal-oral transmission – usually from contaminated food or water sources

Transmission can also be indirect, via a mosquito, tapeworms in pigs can be transmitted to humans who ingest improperly cooked pork.

Bodily Transmission - "Locus"

  • In transmission, a locus is the point on the body where a pathogen enters.
  • In droplet contact and other airborne transmission it is generally the respiratory system
  • A wound in the skin or through a mucous membrane
  • In fecal-oral transmission, it is through the mouth.
  • A bite or sting.

Routes of Transmission

Droplet Contact

Also known as the respiratory route, it is a typical mode of transmission among many infectious agents. If an infected person coughs or sneezes on another person the microorganisms, suspended in warm, moist droplets, may enter the body through the nose, mouth or eye surfaces.

Diseases that are commonly spread by coughing or sneezing include:

  • Bacterial Meningitis
  • Chickenpox
  • Common cold
  • Influenza
  • Mumps
  • Strep throat
  • Tuberculosis
  • Measles
  • Rubella
  • Whooping cough

Transmission by direct contact

Diseases that can be transmitted by direct contact are called contagious. These diseases can also be transmitted by sharing a towel (where the towel is rubbed vigorously on both bodies) or items of clothing in close contact with the body (socks, for example) if they are not washed thoroughly between uses. For this reason, contagious diseases often break out in schools, where towels are shared and personal items of clothing accidentally swapped in the changing rooms.

Some diseases that are transmissible by direct contact include:

  • Athlete's foot
  • Impetigo
  • Syphilis
  • Warts

The route of transmission is important because patterns of contact vary between different populations and different groups of populations depending on socio-economic, cultural and other features. For example, low personal and food hygiene due to the lack of a clean water supply may result in increased transmission of diseases by the fecal-oral route, such as cholera.

Differences in incidence of such diseases between different groups can also throw light on the routes of transmission of the disease. For example, if it is noted that polio is more common in cities in underdeveloped countries, without a clean water supply, than in cities with a good plumbing system, we might advance the theory that polio is spread by the fecal-oral route. Experts contend that they are still not sure about money - notes - being one of the transfer agents of disease.

Last night, after doing my research on this matter, I was appaled to see a lady coming out of a shop, sticking a note in her mouth. so she could fasten her necklace! My thoughts then also went back to a short period I spent in a bank, and the days that clients would bring in a pile of notes to be banked. The nauseating stench from these notes was apalling! Yet we continue to use this form of exchange, and will probably do so for a long time to come.

References: Wikipedia,University of Dublin City, Ireland

Images: Stock.xchng

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Comments (9)

Yes, money is dirty Colin.

Ranked #8 in Immune System

In MANY ways :-(

Ranked #3 in Immune System

Very good article and very informative.

Well done article with valuable information.Factoidz is not sending emails of my favorite authors when they publish so I have had to resort to unusual means to find your post. I am late in commenting because of that fact.

Very well written and informative article, Colin. I had never heard of the web site "Where's George". As for money being loaded with germs...that is just one more good reason why people refer to money as "Filthy Lucre."

Thanks for sharing this informative article. Well done.

Ranked #8 in Immune System

Your Input is highly appreciated Caryn!

Very much detailed. Voted up.

Ranked #8 in Immune System

Thanks Jessie!

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