UV light for cleaning VR headsets during COVID

UVC for disinfecting VR headsets during coronavirus

Hygiene of VR headsets has become a critical issue during the pandemic, more than ever before. In a hospital setting like ours, VR headsets are used by multiple teams. Although all patient VR interventions are currently on hold at Torbay and South Devon Foundation Trust (TSDFT), headsets are used by our staff in the staff well-being room.

Prior to the pandemic, we were using disposable face masks and clinical grade wipes to clean the VR headsets. Hygiene of the VR headset has always been priority at TSDFT. However, developing a hygiene protocol specific to the COVID pandemic was critical. We have published this protocol here.

For several months we have been using the UV Clean Box to disinfect the VR headsets of the SARS-COV-2 virus. Recently a first of its kind study conducted at Hiroshima University has confirmed that UV-C light can effectively destroy the SARS-COV-2 virus. Previously there has been evidence suggesting that the UVB radiation is effective at destroying other SARS viruses, however, it is more hazardous to humans than UVC. UVB can penetrate our skin and eyes causing damage to DNA. UVA radiation is less hazardous but it is less effective UVB or UVC. UVA has also been linked to skin cancer. The Hiroshima University study showed efficacy of 22-nm UVC irradiation against SARS-COV-2 in an in vitro experiment. Further evaluations on the safety and efficacy, along with real-world surface applications such as VR headsets are needed.

UV clean boxes use UVC radiation to inactivate the SARS viruses. The recent study conducted at Hiroshima University was able to confirm that through direct exposure, UVC can destroy the SARS-COV-2 virus. The issue is that any area not entirely exposed to the radiation will continue to the harbour the virus. Clean boxes are the ideal solution as the VR headset can be cleaned with a clinical grade disinfectant wipe and left inside the box. The box allows the radiation to be targeted equally through the entire surface area. Previously we were using the UV Clean Box, which is a perfect solution if you have a couple VR headsets. At the Immersive VR Lab we have several VR headsets, so alongside the UV Clean Box we have recently started trialling the UVISAN. Within 3-5 minutes, we can disinfect up-to 4 VR headsets at once. The UVISAN box uses medical grade technology with a low pressure UVC which is safe. The box is quite easy to operate and is portable, which makes it perfect for a hospital setting.

Our priority is to ensure that no transmission of virus takes place through the VR experiences we have made available at the hospital. Knowing that a strict hygiene protocol is followed, supported by scientific results showing efficacy of UVC on inactivating the SARS-COV-2 virus can generate confidence in the users and encourage uptake.

If you are interested in more information about our hygiene protocol, please get in touch with us. Please beware that this protocol has not been tested specifically in the context of the SARS-COV-2 virus. These are guidelines recommended by the UK Government and Torbay Hospital’s Infection Control department. We recommend that before using this protocol, you speak to your local Infection Control department as well. It is essential that any staff dealing with VR headsets should be trained effectively.

Additional guidance available through- FDA on UVC radiation and coronavirus

Author: Payal Ghatnekar