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Using UV rays to kill Coronavirus: Can sunlight be effective?

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Quick Take

A social media post claims that UV rays can kill Coronavirus. We investigated the claim and found it to be Half True.

The Claim

The post shared on Facebook reads: “Live in under the sun…. cause UV ray can kill CORONA Virus … take care everybody…. we will be better soon i believe that… pray more / eat well / sleep well and stay at home.
The archived version of the post can be checked here and a snapshot is given below:

Fact Check

Can UV rays kill Coronavirus?

Probably. As per the National Academy of Sciences, ‘UV light has been shown to destroy other Coronaviruses, so it will probably work on the novel Coronavirus‘.(Source). UV-C can destroy the genetic material of a Virus or Bacteria (Source) and is therefore used to disinfect public places. Government agencies in most countries are experimenting with the same methodology in case of novel Coronavirus.

Here is a report by South China Morning Post that shows how authorities in Shanghai are using ultraviolet light to disinfect public buses.

Sunlight contains UV rays. So can sunlight kill Coronavirus?

Based on the facts we know so far, sunlight cannot kill Coronavirus. We have done a detailed fact check on the same before. You can read about it here.

If UV rays can kill Coronavirus, then why can’t UV rays from Sun kill the same?

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a lot of claims about sunlight being able to kill the virus. We have fact check this before. Read Here.

UV rays coming from sun are 3 types – Type A (known as UV-A), Type B (known as UV-B) and Type C (known as UV-C). Out of these, UV-C has the strongest radiation and can easily kill all virus and bacteria by altering their RNA and DNA. But only UV-A and UV-B reaches the earth’s surface and UV-C do not reach the earth’s surface. UV-C gets trapped by the Ozone layer of the earth. (Which is a good thing too because UV-C, had it reached earth, would have caused severe skin burn and cancer in humans too. In fact UV-A and UV-B which reach the earth is also often associated with premature aging, skin burns and skin cancer in humans after prolonged exposure)

So, can’t UV-A and UV-B kill pathogens? UV-A and UV-B are known to kill bacteria and pathogens (Source). UV-A and UV-B also make some viruses like the Influenza viruses less effective (Source). But at the same time, sunlight (UV-A and UV-B) have been ineffective against some viruses like the SARS virus (which is also a type of Coronavirus) after 15 minutes of exposure. (Source)

Whats we see used as UV lamps and used as disinfectants of surfaces and public amenities, are man-made UV rays in the same frequency as UV-C. While it can be a good disinfectant, it can be potentially very dangerous to humans. Scientists believe the man-made UV-C lights can also kill the Novel Coronavirus since they seem to have worked against similar viruses on past (Source)

NOTE: All the above facts about UV rays effective (or ineffective) on viruses is only when the virus is outside the body and is exposed to the sunlight. Once the virus enters the body, no amount of sunlight or UV light can kill it.

Should we use UV lamps or UV lights to sanitize hands?

WHO has given a strict guidelines against using UV lamps to sanitize hands. The UV lamps can have major negative effects on human cells and cause more damage than good. The WHO website says, “Ultra-violet (UV) lamps should not be used to disinfect hands or other areas of your skin. UV radiation can cause skin irritation and damage your eyes.”

Can sunlight help you get Vitamin D and thereby prevent other diseases?

Sunlight can be a great source of Vitamin D provided you expose a larger part of skin to sun rays everyday for a limited period of time. We talked to Dr. Manish Singhal, Senior Oncologist on this. Check the video below:

Disclaimer: Medical Science is an ever evolving field. We strive to keep this page updated. In case you notice any discrepancy in the content, please inform us at [email protected]. You can futher read our Correction Policy here. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of something you have read on or accessed through this website or it's social media channels. Read our Full Disclaimer Here for further information.

Disclaimer: Medical Science is an ever evolving field. We strive to keep this page updated. In case you notice any discrepancy in the content, please inform us at [email protected]. You can further read our Correction Policy here. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of something you have read on or accessed through this website or it's social media channels. Read our Full Disclaimer Here for further information.

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Disclaimer: Medical Science is an ever evolving field. We strive to keep this page updated. In case you notice any discrepancy in the content, please inform us at [email protected]. You can futher read our Correction Policy here. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of something you have read on or accessed through this website or it's social media channels. Read our Full Disclaimer Here for further information.

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