Cash could be spreading the coronavirus, warns the World Health Organization

Cash could be contributing to the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization.

The WHO told the Telegraph that the coronavirus could remain on money for days after being exposed to it, and that people should avoid touching their face after handling cash.

"We know that money changes hands frequently and can pick up all sorts of bacteria and viruses and things like that," a WHO spokesperson told the Telegraph. "We would advise people to wash their hands after handling banknotes, and avoid touching their face."

In a statement to Business Insider, a WHO spokesperson said that "people should wash their hands or use a hand sanitizer after handling money, especially if they are about to eat or before handling food."

The Mayo Clinic says that viruses tend to last longer on hard surfaces like plastic and metal than on soft surfaces like fabric — US dollars are a blend of paper and fabric — but says that factors like temperature and humidity impact how long a virus sticks around on surfaces.

China said in February that it would destroy and disinfect cash from hospitals, buses, and markets in areas severely impacted by the coronavirus.

The UK-based Telegraph reported that the Bank of England said it would not follow China's plan and disinfect cash.

The US Treasury Department did not respond to a request for comment.

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