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Henry Ford Health System: UV-C Light is effective for killing COVID-19 on N95 mask

Published: Sep. 22, 2020 at 4:36 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Researchers at Henry Ford Hospital and the University of Michigan believe they’ve found a way to kill the coronavirus on N95 masks so they can be reused.

Dermatology researchers at Henry Ford Health System used a prototype phototherapy unit that dispenses an Ultraviolet C (UV-C) light dosing level high enough to effectively kill the virus in less than two minutes. It was tested at the University of Michigan’s SARS-CoV-2 research lab in Ann Arbor.

The idea came about early on during the pandemic when Southeast Michigan was hit hard by the virus.

“Back in March, it was a pretty rough time for all of us,” said Dr. David Ozog, Chair of the Henry Ford Department of Dermatology.

Ozog says medical grade masks were hard to come by.

“We were told don’t wear, wear and then we had shortages. We had shortages particularly of the N95 masks,” said Ozag.

They hope the new technique will be useful for healthcare workers if the state faces another medical grade mask shortage.

Ozog says UV-C light has been shown to effectively kill other coronavirus and flu, but to assure health care workers of the technique’s effectiveness, they wanted to test masks with live coronavirus cultures.

“We applied virus directly to the masks and then used the device to irradiate on both sides and I was just astounded at the device that they had developed and how quick the process was,” said Dr. Jonathon Sexton, University of Michigan Assistant Professor of Medicine.

Five different N95 masks were tested at the lab.

“What we found was with certain types of masks, it was absolutely effective in reducing-so basically we could not detect any live virus,” said Sexton.

Although effective, Ozog says it’s a stop gap for health care workers and throwing out a mask after single use is still best.

“Any of these repurposing methods should only be used if what happened before happens again,” said Ozog.

UV-C light is one of the four main methods used by healthcare workers to sterilize N95 masks.

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