To Kill a Virus

I have one of these canisters sitting on my desk at work:

Kills viruses.

The workplace provides them. I use them to wipe down my keyboard and mouse whenever someone else touches any of my items, because my coworkers are disgusting.

But I get angry whenever I look at that canister. Well I’m always angry at work, but apart from that, it makes me extra angry to see the blatant falsism that is the claim of being able to kill cold and flu viruses.

First of all, you can’t kill a virus because a virus is not a living organism. A virus is incapable of reproduction outside of a host cell, one of the definitive criteria for life. Oh, is Lysol in fact claiming that it can specifically kill virus-infected host cells, which are indeed living things? Congratulations Lysol, you just found a cure for HIV and possibly cancer.

Secondly, it’s not that easy to eliminate a virus. Anti-viral drugs barely work against influenza, so why the hell would Lysol be effective?

As I mentally drafted up the grounds for my class-action lawsuit, I decided to obtain a deposition from a world-renowned virologist to shore up my case. It went something like this.

Q. Professor Ou, can Lysol, which consists of alcohol and bleach, really kill viruses?

A. Sure, alcohol can denature virus proteins.

Q. Wait, wait, so next time I have the flu, I should just drink lots of alcohol, and I’ll get better?

A. Well, the alcohol needs to be in contact with the virus for long enough to denature the proteins. But you should drink 70% alcohol. Anything less will not be strong enough to destroy the virus.

Q. Why don’t I just drink pure alcohol then?

A. Can’t you go look it up on the internet? I’m busy.

Q. I’m telling mom!

A. Okay, okay… alcohol is not a good organic solvent, but water is. You need the 30% water for alcohol to reach the virus. However, you may damage some of your own cells in the process.

Cool! I learned something.

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