By DAVID KANDUZA –
WITH levels of public anxiety growing daily over the outbreak of cholera in Lusaka and other parts of Zambia, doctors are suggesting that money may be giving currency to the spread of the killer disease.
The Zambia Medical Association (ZMA) secretary-general Francis Mupeta said paper currency and coins were a public health risk when associated with the simultaneous handling of food and could lead to the spread of the disease.
Dr Mupeta said the amount of bacterial contamination on currency varied widely but there was no doubt that local currency, like all other currencies in the world, had bacterial contamination which exposed the public to disease.
He challenged the Bank of Zambia to educate the public on handling of currency which was potential vector of disease.
“Many people do not care how dirty their fingers are when handling money,” he said.
Studies have identified paper currency as one of the means by which disease can be transmitted and could be a particular risk to public health.
Paper currency is made of a rugged mix of 75 per cent cotton and 25 per cent linen, and offers surface area for bacteria and microorganisms to reside on both sides.
According to Scientic American studies have piled up in recent years describing exactly how filthy—specifically how bacteria-laden — both paper and coinage can be.
“Faecal bacteria and other pathogens may have hitched a ride from someone’s hands, nose or apron onto our cash. And yeast or mold might have taken hold, too.
The result could be a durable risk to our health whenever our money changes hands,” the online publication says.
It says the fibrous surfaces of currency provide ample crevices for bacteria to make themselves at home. And the longer any of that money stays in circulation, the more opportunity it has to become contaminated.
Lower-denomination bills are used more often, so studies suggest these are more likely to be teeming with disease-causing bacteria.
Some of these pathogens are known to survive for months, according to a recent review of “dirty money” studies.
Said DrMupeta;“The economic status of a country is associated with the concentration of bacteria on the currency. The average number of bacteria detected on banknotes is also associated with the economic freedom of banknotes.”
He stressed, however, that the principal conditions in Zambia which created the environment for cholera to break out andto spread – lack of knowledge of hygiene, poverty and social inequity – also needed to be challenged.
“The key to eliminating cholera- as with other diseases linked to underdevelopment – lies in improved education and communication systems, adequate and safe water supplies, provision of sanitation systems which effect public health programmes and availability of treatment,” he said