Feb 15 05:10 PM US/Eastern
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TORONTO – Using temperature scanners in airports to try to identify and block entry of sick travellers during a disease outbreak is unlikely to achieve the desired goal, a report by French public health officials suggests.

Their analysis, based on a review of studies on temperature screening efforts like those instituted during the 2003 SARS outbreak, says the programs may be of limited use in the early days of a flu pandemic, when governments might be tempted to order screening of incoming travellers to try to delay introduction of the illness within their borders.

The authors, from France’s Health Watch Institute, said the available scientific data suggests there is little benefit to airport temperature screening when the incidence of disease is low, as it was with SARS and as it would be expected to be in the very early days of a pandemic.

“Because public perceptions are important, policy-makers may feel some pressure to use NCIT” – non-contact infrared thermometers – “but the decision making process should not ignore the poor scientific evidence on NCIT’s efficacy to delay the introduction of a novel influenza strain,” they wrote.

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