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Japanese TV experiment shows how quickly virus particles can spread at buffets

In this April 18, 2014 photo, passengers get lunch at the Carvery, of the Grand Buffet, aboard the Carnival Splendor cruise ship, in New York.
In this April 18, 2014 photo, passengers get lunch at the Carvery, of the Grand Buffet, aboard the Carnival Splendor cruise ship, in New York.

We’re often told by health officials that viruses such as COVID-19 are able to survive on surfaces for a number of hours. But not many people have seen just how this can work in real time.

On May 8, Japanese public broadcaster NHK released a video that featured an experiment designed to show how far a virus can spread from an infected person at a buffet-style restaurant.

The experiment, created with the help of experts from Kawasaki’s St. Marianna University School of Medicine, involved 10 people in a makeshift restaurant, set up with a buffet table. Before anybody could serve themselves, the researchers applied a fluorescent lotion to the hands of one of the subjects.

The lotion represented the particles of a cough on someone’s hand, and anything that went into contact with it would show up later under a UV light.

The subjects were then let loose on the buffet for 30 minutes.

By the end of the experiment, the lotion had gotten everywhere. Subjects appeared shocked when the light revealed that the lotion was now on the hands of every single participant. Some even had it on their mouths.

According to NHK, the “infection” was spread through the utensils at the buffet, including the food lids, tongs, and drink handles.

In an online post, the broadcaster said that buffets were suspected to be one of the main sources of the spread of COVID-19 on cruise ships, which were some of the first and worst-hit locations at the beginning of the pandemic.

Hundreds of Canadians were stuck on cruise ships for weeks as the coronavirus spread throughout the vessels.

According to the World Health Organization, one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is frequent hand washing and keeping nearby surfaces clean and disinfected.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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