Some fever scanners work, U.S. study finds

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Wednesday, 13 October 2010 08:03 GMT

* Flir, Optotherm systems work best

* Other systems found not as accurate

WASHINGTON, Oct 13 (Reuters) - Two commercially available scanners meant for use in airports and other public facilities can reliably detect people with fevers, making them useful during disease outbreaks, U.S. researchers reported on Wednesday.

The scanners, which work at a distance of 3 to 6 feet (1 to 2 metres), do a better job of detecting fevers than when people are simply asked if they feel feverish, An Nguyen of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and colleagues found.

"Our evaluation of three infrared thermal detection systems in emergency department settings found that the FLIR and OptoTherm reliably identified elevated body temperatures," they wrote in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Thermal imaging and infrared camera maker FLIR Systems Inc <FLIR.O> makes an airport scanner called ThermoVision A20M; privately held OptoTherm Thermal Imaging Systems and Infrared Cameras Inc., based in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, makes the OptoTherm Thermoscreen.

A third system, made by North Carolina-based Palmer Wahl Instrumentation Group, was not found to be as accurate, and three other systems did not meet criteria for testing.

Airport fever scanners were used in some countries during last year&${esc.hash}39;s pandemic of H1N1 swine flu and the 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or SARS, which killed about 800 people globally before it was contained.

When diseases are spreading fast, some expert recommended screening airline passengers, who can carry viruses around the world in hours.

"Advancements in transportation coupled with the growth and movement of human populations enable efficient transport of infectious diseases almost anywhere in the world within 24 hours," Nguyen&${esc.hash}39;s team wrote.

"Because fever is a common indicator of many infectious diseases, the rapid identification of fever is a major component of screening efforts."

People fearful of being detained may lie about feeling feverish, the researchers noted.

"Despite limited evidence regarding their utility, infrared thermal detection systems are increasingly being used for mass fever detection," Nguyen and colleagues wrote.

They tested three systems in several emergency rooms and found they detected about 90 percent of fevers.

That compared with 75 percent accuracy when people were asked if they felt like they had a fever. (Editing by Peter Cooney)

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