HEALTH

UV Lights Can Prevent The Flu From Spreading In Public Places

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UV Lights Can Prevent The Flu From Spreading In Public Places

Study offers hope in midst of flu pandemic

This year’s flu season is already on track to eclipse 2009’s swine flu pandemic, with the death toll rising each and every day. Aside from getting a flu shot and holding to a certain high hygiene standard, there’s little else one can do to steer themselves clear of the viral pathogen. But a new, potentially life-saving solution to stopping the public contractions of the disease might be on the horizon: UVC lighting.

Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center are currently developing far-UVC — a special type of ultraviolet light that specifically targets pathogens — that could be used in public places and offices to kill the airborne influenza virus and stop its spread in its tracks.

Science has known for sometime that broad-spectrum UVC is a potent germicide; it’s been tested time and time again in laboratories — even killing strains of MRSA. It kills bacteria and viruses by breaking them down at their molecular bonds, thus rendering them fragmented and  unable to replicate.

“Unfortunately, conventional germicidal UV light is also a human health hazard and can lead to skin cancer and cataracts, which prevents its use in public spaces,” said lead author David J. Brenner.

“Far-UVC light has a very limited range and cannot penetrate through the outer dead-cell layer of human skin or the tear layer in the eye, so it’s not a human health hazard,” said Brenner. “But because viruses and bacteria are much smaller than human cells, far-UVC light can reach their DNA and kill them.”

The new research, conducted in a test chamber similar to a public setting, showed that far-UVC light effectively killed flu virus in the air, which is the main way the disease spreads.

“If our results are confirmed in other settings,” said Brenner, “it follows that the use of overhead low-level far-UVC light in public locations would be a safe and efficient method for limiting the transmission and spread of airborne-mediated microbial diseases, such as influenza and tuberculosis.”

With the 2018 flu raging onward with no end in sight, the research is more than just timely: it’s vital and almost priceless. “And unlike flu vaccines,” said Brenner, “far-UVC is likely to be effective against all airborne microbes, even newly emerging strains.”

(Feature image, courtesy of MaxPixel)