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article imageTemperature scanners of 'limited value' in detecting COVID-19

By Tim Sandle     Mar 2, 2021 in Science
Many workplaces and businesses have put in place thermography scanners on building entrances or they are asking people to take their temperature before travel. Is this a useful COVID-19 safety measure?
New research finds that the activity of having people position themselves in front of a scanner in order to have their body temperature assessed is not the most productive COVID-19 prevention measure. This is based on a review of the sizable number of false negatives. This leads to the sanger that people with the coronavirus and exhibiting other COVID-19 symptoms, or being asymptomatic carriers, can pass through airports and hospitals without detection.
The research makes the general point that temperature alone is not a good indicator of disease. With the coronavirus, a number who have the infection do not, or do not immediately, develop a fever. (around 1 in 10 COVID-19 cases are indicated in the research not to develop a fever). It also stands that someone with a high temperature may not have a coronavirus infection. Skin temperature often changes independently of deep body temperature, making skin readings unreliable. It also stands that most scanners are inaccurate by 1 degree Celsius, so only a temperature rise of 2 degrees can be regarded as clinically significant.
Thermography scanner for COVID-19 symptoms.
Thermography scanner for COVID-19 symptoms.
The findings have been collated by subject matter experts in physiology. The scientists argue that instead of the standard facial scanning, more meaningful and accurate data can be drawn from measuring temperature readings taken from a person’s fingertip and their eye. This is because measuring skin temperature does not provide accurate estimation of deep body temperature (of the type raised in a fever).
The experimental data suggests that recording two temperature measurements - from a finger and from an eye - provides a more robust indicator of a fever-induced rise with deep body temperature.
The research has been published in the science journal Experimental Physiology. The research is titled "Myths and methodologies: Degrees of freedom – limitations of infrared thermographic screening for Covid‐19 and other infections."
Commenting on the findings, one of the lead researchers, Professor Mike Tipton, makes the case for a different approach for temperature monitoring: “If scanners are not giving an accurate reading, we run the risk of falsely excluding people from places they may want, or need, to go, and we also risk allowing people with the virus to spread the undetected infection they have.”
The researchers also recommend that the entire spectrum of symptoms should be considered in addition to temperature: Dry cough, sputum production, shortness of breath, muscle or joint pain, sore throat, headache chills, nausea or vomiting, nasal congestion, and diarrhoea.
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