Tech Brief – Limits of elevated body temperature screening

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2020-06-23 19:23:34

As government and corporate America develop post-COVID-19 action plans for responsibly reopening the country, some businesses are scrambling to keep up with the demand for thermal cameras, which many believe can help identify novel coronavirus cases via elevated temperature detection

During the SARS outbreak in 2002, the same demand occurred, albeit on a much smaller scale and mainly in Asia. As with most infectious diseases, people want to keep it from spreading.  Fever represents a common COVID-19 symptom.  Sometimes a person with a fever may not feel particularly sick and may still attempt to travel or come to work. Afraid of being booted off a plane or sent home, the motivation for self-reporting a potential illness quickly outweighs the consequences. Technology offers an attractive route for companies looking to screen for sick people. Companies feel severe economic pressure to reopen their businesses to survive, while other essential businesses fear that a company outbreak could bring them to a screeching halt, as has happened in the food and restaurant industries.

Several methods to check somebody’s temperature exist (Figure 1), but the larger the company, the less practical it becomes to have a medical professional use a handheld thermometer to screen everyone entering the building. This method is somewhat invasive and not conducive to social distancing guidelines, which is why non-contact thermal imaging has emerged as a popular alternative.

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