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Special UV light could kill airborne flu virus, study finds

NEW YORK — Imagine a light that could kill the flu. It's close to a reality.

A study out of Columbia University shows a certain type of ultraviolet light could decrease the airborne transmission of the contagious, at times deadly, virus.

"Next flu season, perhaps a little optimistic, the flu season after that, I think perhaps would be a more realistic target," Columbia University's Dr. David Brenner said.

His team of researchers have figured out that far ultraviolet C light can kill the flu virus when it's airborne.

"Ultraviolet light in general is good at killing all microbes," Brenner said.

But UVA and UVB light can harm the skin and eyes. According to Brenner, far UVC light won't penetrate the skin. It will, however, kill the flu virus midair after someone coughs or sneezes.

"The bottom line is we have never seen any biological hazards, any health consequences of this far UVC light," Brenner said.

Researcher David Welch helped discover this at their lab in Irvington, New York.

"With a very small dose, we were able to kill 95 percent of viruses," he said.

These lights could be installed in hospitals and schools, planes and trains.

Currently the cost of each light is about $1,000. But once they are mass produced, that price is expected to go down dramatically.

"And if we can continue to show that it's both safe and effective then we can really can make a difference," Welch said.

This does not mean you should stop washing your hands, disinfecting and getting the flu vaccine. When this light is on, the flu can still live on surfaces and be passed through direct person-to-person contact.