Could coronavirus be spreading on banknotes? Here's everything you need to know

The advice is clear - washing your hands with soap and water is the most effective way to stop the spread of coronavirus, as well as many other viruses and bacterial infections.

But there is one thing we carry on our person, that according to the Guardian can change hands over two thousands times in its lifetime and carry germs with it - money.

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The world is moving quickly towards a cashless world, but paper money is still very much a large part of our economy and that isn't going to change any time soon. Is handling cash dangerous for people while virus is spreading across the world?

Are we handling dirty money?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has written online, "It is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment)."

With the uncertainty, perhaps using contactless transactions on your phone or via contactless card are the best way to avoid catching and spreading the disease. The famous Louvre art gallery in Paris recently declined cash payments after it closed to the public on 1 March, to help stop the spread of the virus.

'Washing your hands thoroughly is the answer, not contactless payment'

Michael Knight, assistant professor of medicine at the George Washington School of Medicine, told CNBC that “getting coronavirus, or other respiratory viruses like influenza, on your hands only leads to infection when it is transferred from your hand to places like your mouth, nose or eyes.

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"Additionally, if you stick to contactless payments but don’t wash your hands after touching your phone, credit card or a payment terminal, you are still susceptible to potential infection.”

Proper hand washing technique must be followed to protect yourself from coronavirus and other pathogens (Image: NHS)

In fact, health authorities are telling people how to clean their phones properly. Studies have shown that people pick up their phone around 76 times, and touch it over 2,5000 times a day. Another demonstrated that an average teenagers phone contains 17,000 different bacteria.

Washing credit cards and mobile phones is good practice, especially during a viral outbreak, but washing your hands is the best defence against Covid-19.

Coronavirus: the facts

What is coronavirus?

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COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can affect lungs and airways. It is caused by a virus called coronavirus.

What caused coronavirus?

The outbreak started in Wuhan in China in December 2019 and it is thought that the virus, like others of its kind, has come from animals.

How is it spread?

As this is such a new illness, experts still aren’t sure how it is spread. But.similar viruses are spread in cough droplets. Therefore covering your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing, and disposing of used tissues straight away is advised. Viruses like coronavirus cannot live outside the body for very long.

What are the symptoms?

The NHS states that the symptoms are: a dry cough, high temperature and shortness of breath - but these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness. Look out for flu-like symptoms, such as aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose and a sore throat. It’s important to remember that some people may become infected but won’t develop any symptoms or feel unwell.

What precautions can be taken?

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Washing your hands with soap and water thoroughly. The NHS also advises to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze; put used tissues in the bin immediately and try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell. Also avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth unless your hands are clean.

Should I avoid public places?

Most people who feel well can continue to go to work, school and public places and should only stay at home and self isolate if advised by a medical professional or the coronavirus service.

What should I do if I feel unwell?

Don’t go to your GP but instead call NHS 111 or look online at the coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and what to do next.

When to call NHS 111

NHS 111 should be used if you feel unwell with coronavirus symptoms, have been in a country with a high risk of coronavirus in the last 14 days or if you have been in close contact with someone with the virus.

Sources: World Health Organisation and NHS