Video of black light experiment shows how fast a virus can spread in a restaurant setting

Korin Miller
Writer

Video of a black light experiment designed to show how fast a virus can spread in a restaurant setting is quickly going viral.

The video, which was shot in Japan by the public broadcasting organization NHK, features 10 people going through a simulation designed to mimic the atmosphere in a pre-pandemic buffet restaurant or cruise ship.

In the video, one person is designed as the “infected” patient and is given a special black light-ready solution to rub into his hands. (The solution is invisible without a black light, so participants in the demonstration can’t see it during the simulation.) Then, everyone in the experiment does what people normally do at a buffet restaurant — they dish up food, eat chat, and drink. At the end of the video, a black light is turned on, and you can see the “virus” just about everywhere. It shows up on utensils, cups, food and even on some participants’ faces. 

Experts say this is definitely worth paying attention to.

“This is an accurate illustration of how many commonly touched surfaces there are and how many opportunities there are for viruses to spread,” Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, tells Yahoo Life.

However, he says, just because germs show up on surfaces doesn’t actually mean they’ll make a person sick. “If all of these types of interactions were major drivers of illness, it would be unsafe to be in public in general under any circumstances,” he says. “Not every one of those commonly-touched surfaces translates into an infection, but it can.”

This particular simulation places a lot of emphasis on touch as a way to spread germs, but some viruses —like SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 — are mostly spread through respiratory droplets in the air, Dr. Richard Watkins, an infectious disease physician and professor of internal medicine at the Northeast Ohio Medical University, tells Yahoo Life.

“COVID-19 is most contagious when it is in the air from an infected person coughing or speaking,” he says.

Adalja agrees. “With coronavirus, it’s important to remember that the main driver of infection is interacting with individuals who are sick, including with those who are coughing and sneezing,” Adalja says. “It’s less about what people touch.”

This experiment also used a buffet line — with shared serving utensils — which comes with an increased risk of spreading a virus, Adalja says.

As states open up and people dine out more, Adalja says it’s important for would-be restaurant customers to remember that COVID-19 and other viruses will still be circulating. That’s why he recommends diners do their best to practice social distancing from other patrons, and to try to opt for outdoor seating when it’s available. “Wash your hands a lot — and try to refrain from touching your face,” he says.

But ultimately, Watkins recommends that people refrain from dining out right now. “Ordering carryout and staying home is best,” he says.

For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides. 

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