February 17, 2021 (Halifax, NS) – Nova Scotia has the highest proportion of seniors in Canada. Investing in high quality and safe solutions for long-term care facilities is an important healthy aging strategy here and around the world.
That is why researchers in Nova Scotia are launching a project to test whether UV lights installed in long-term care facilities will reduce influenza-like illnesses, respiratory infections, and COVID-19 infections among residents.
“The pandemic has had a particular impact on older adults, especially those with underlying health conditions,” says lead researcher Dr. Kenneth Rockwood, Division of Geriatric Medicine, Nova Scotia Health. “We want to see if Far-UVC light can kill airborne viral transmissions, including the SARS CoV-2 virus, in long-term care facilities.”
In addition to studying their effectiveness, the research will also evaluate how residents and staff respond to the UV lights and how costs compare to other available infection prevention options. This will enable the rapid deployment of Far-UVC lighting in other long-term care facilities should the new technology prove to be sound.
Dr. Rockwood hopes to build on preliminary data that suggests that exposure of lower dose UV light can inactivate influenza and coronaviruses. In other parts of the world, Far UVC lighting has been employed in various sectors, including in schools and hospital settings, to provide continuous disinfection in occupied spaces.
Supported by Research Nova Scotia and designed by Nova Scotia Health, this $1.7 million project is one of 22 COVID-related research projects funded by the organization since March 2020. Provincial funding for the project has been allocated from the initial $50-million contribution to the Nova Scotia COVID-19 Response Council administered by Dalhousie University. Stefan Leslie, CEO of Research Nova Scotia, credits the successful launch of this project to a combination of the researchers’ desire to help and the long-term care facilities’ enthusiasm to provide a healthy environment.
“Even before COVID-19, airborne viruses were a major threat in these facilities, causing death, illness and reduced quality of life.” says Leslie. “Finding innovative and safe ways to keep vulnerable Nova Scotians healthy is an urgent research need.”
The study will take place at two long-term care facilities in the province – with different room configurations, age of residents and history with COVID-19 infections. Although exposure to Far-UVC light has been found to be safe for skin and eyes, staff and residents will be closely monitored.
An advisory council with diverse expertise will provide project oversight, ensuring scientific rigour, quality, safety and adherence to the highest ethical standards. The experience of residents and staff will be an active part of the day-to-day implementation of the research. The council will include leading and relevant scientific experts, leads and staff from participating sites, providers, residents, as well as policy and decision makers who will be engaged from the design phase of the trial with regular check-in and consultation opportunities.
- Participating sites include Northwood’s Halifax campus and Windsor Elms Village in Falmouth.
- Northwood staff have extensive experience with COVID-19 after a large outbreak at the Halifax campus in April and May of last year.
- Windsor Elms Village has not experienced a COVID-19 outbreak and has a mix of older and younger residents.
- Locations have been selected by the research team in conjunction with provincial public health officials and Nova Scotia Health.
- Far-UVC devices, which provide disinfection from the ultraviolet light that is emitted, will be installed in high traffic areas (e.g. dining rooms, main corridors).
- Although exposure to Far-UVC light has been found to be safe for skin and eyes, staff and residents will be closely monitored.
- The study will span two flu seasons to collect sufficient data to be able to determine effectiveness and sustainability of this approach.
“Supporting research projects that can have a direct impact on reducing the prevalence of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia is of particular importance. This study on far-UVC lighting has the potential, in the future, to be introduced as an additional measure as part of infection prevention and control programs in health care facilities to ensure the health of Nova Scotians. We are pleased to be working with Northwood and Windsor Elms Village on this innovative research.”
- Dr. Gail Tomblin Murphy, Vice President of Research, Innovation, and Discovery and Chief Nurse Executive, Nova Scotia Health
“We are pleased to participate in the study. Determining the effectiveness of UV light to assist in the prevention of infections in a long-term setting is essential. We hope we can include this additional tool in our strategies to prevent the introduction and spread of infections within our very vulnerable population.”
- Janet Simm, President and CEO, Northwood Care Inc.
“The Windsor Elms Village is proud to be a partner in this exciting research. As a long term care home committed to providing a safe and meaningful environment for our residents to live and engage in, the potential to inform an innovative path forward that helps us provide the safest environment possible is an honour. The opportunity to learn and apply continuous quality improvement methods speaks to who we are and what we are all about.”
- Susan Hayes, CEO, The Windsor Elms Village
For more information contact:
Research Nova Scotia
Director of Marketing & Communications
Nova Scotia Health | Research, Innovation and Discovery
Director of Communications
About Research Nova Scotia
Research Nova Scotia is an independent, not-for-profit corporation with the mandate to support, organize and co-ordinate the funding of research in Nova Scotia. RNS was established to enhance research capacity, as well as align research funding, with provincial priorities and promotes a mission-oriented research ecosystem to help solve Nova Scotia’s biggest challenges.
About Nova Scotia Health
Nova Scotia Health provides health services to Nova Scotians and a wide array of specialized services to Maritimers and Atlantic Canadians. Nova Scotia Health operates hospitals, health centres and community-based programs across the province. Our team of health professionals includes employees, doctors, researchers, learners and volunteers. We work in partnership with community groups, schools, governments, foundations and auxiliaries and community health boards.