Flash Flu Fix

Travelling on an airplane this flu season?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

AH-CHOO! Scootch scootch! Between the close quarters and recycled air, there’s a good chance you’ll catch something. You can try to protect yourself by wearing a mask or popping vitamin C. But could AIRLINES help to prevent the spread of airborne viruses?

Enter David Welch at the Columbia University Medical Center. He and his colleagues had a BRIGHT idea. Could LIGHT kill viruses? To test this, his team put airborne swine flu virus into a plastic bag, then shined ultraviolet light on. But wait– UV light? That causes skin cancers and cataracts! But no worries. The researchers used a specific kind of UV light at a low dose that cannot harm human skin or eyes.

So did the swine flu virus survive?
NO! The light DESTROYED it! Welch thinks the UV treatment could defend people from other viruses and diseases, too.

Overhead lights in public spaces, like planes, could house these UV lights. This could be a key step in wiping out airborne viruses.

No more fear of flying! If you’re feeling flu-ish, that is.