Viral Video Shows How Easily Infection Can Spread Through Indirect Contact

As countries around the world begin to ease lockdown measures and attempt to live something approaching normal life, there are going to have to be some modifications to the way we've been doing things in order to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. For instance, travel group Tui has announced it will limit classic holiday all-you-can-eat buffets "to a minimum".

Before the pandemic, cruise ships were already notorious for harboring and spreading any type of infection, and are regularly investigated for outbreaks by the Centers for Disease Control And Prevention (CDC), particularly for norovirus and E. coli. It's difficult to see how they can resume normal service before a vaccine is found, especially given the high profile cases of passengers contracting Covid-19 and being quarantined on cruise ships in the last few months.

In an experiment that really highlights the danger of infection involved in both buffets and cruise ships, Japan's public broadcasting network NHK teamed up with the St. Marianna University School of Medicine to show how easily germs can spread. The resulting video, which went viral after being shared by Twitter-user Johnny Suputama, is hard to watch.

The simple experiment sees a group of 10 people dine at a buffet (thought to be the main source of contact infections on cruise ships). One person is designated the "infected" passenger and has fluorescent paint applied to the palms of their hands, as this is the most likely way of spreading germs. The participants then help themselves to the buffet and dined for 30 minutes, spread out across a few tables, before a UV light is turned on to see how far the "infection" has spread.

As you can see for yourself, it was pretty much everywhere.


The paint was found on all 10 participants' hands, and on the faces of three. Contact points where the "infection" was spread included the lids of food containers, tongs, and the handles of drinks containers. 

If you'd like some hope that things might return to normal in the future, however, they ran the experiment a second time with some social distancing "upgrades". This time, the dishes were separated to limit the risk of contact infections, tongs were regularly replaced by the waiting staff, and the participants were asked to wash their hands frequently. In this version of the experiment, only the "infected" person had paint on their hands or body by the end of the meal. 

Of course, fluorescent paint doesn't act in the exact same way as a virus, although we know Covid-19 can stay on surfaces such as stainless steel for up to three days, and this demonstration isn't just limited to buffets and cruise ships.

However, the experiment highlights – as if it isn't incredibly clear by now – the importance of washing your hands thoroughly, not touching your face, and for now at least, not going anywhere near a buffet. I don't care if it is all you can eat.

[H/T: Science Alert]


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