This UV Lamp Could Prevent the Flu Virus From Spreading in Public Places
Researchers have developed an ultraviolet (UV) lamp that kills the influenza virus but isn’t harmful to human skin or eyes, according to a new study in Scientific Reports. They hope the technology can be commercialized and marketed to prevent the spread of seasonal flu in public places, such as schools, hospitals, and airports. “We’ve known for a century that UV light is extremely efficient at killing microbes, bacteria, and viruses,” says study leader David Brenner, director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. For that reason, UV devices are often used for sterilization — for medical equipment in hospitals, for example, or drinking water for backcountry campers. But conventional germicidal lamps aren’t safe for humans to be around. With prolonged exposure, they can cause skin cancer and cataracts in the eyes. “So up until now, they’re only really practical when people aren’t around,” say Brenner. “You can sterilize a hospital room, but not when anyone’s inside.” About five years ago, Brenner says, the Columbia team came up with a potential solution. Light on the far end of the UV-C spectrum, known as far-UVC, has very short wavelengths. The researchers suspected that it can penetrate and destroy microscopic bacteria and viruses, but can’t travel through the protective outer layers of human skin or eyes. “We wanted to get all the benefit...
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