Date Published: 22 February 2006

Thermal Scanner to be used to screen arriving airline passengers for fevers such as flu

Health News from Australia.

An infrared thermal scanner is to be trialled at Cairns airport (Australia) to screen arriving passengers for fevers including influenza and dengue.

Details of the proposal are being discussed with airport, commercial and government bodies to decide the best way to proceed with the trial.

It would be the first time an infrared thermal scanner has been trialled at an Australian airport for detection of fever.

Dr John McBride, Professor of Medicine at James Cook University in Cairns, said the use of scanners at airports could help to prevent or delay the entry of pandemic influenza and other diseases such as dengue fever.

" In 2003, during the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic, countries such as Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore introduced thermal scanners as a way of rapidly screening passengers for fever," Professor McBride said.

" Taiwan reported that fever screening at airports detected 40 incoming passengers with dengue fever in a 12-month period, compared with eight patients detected by their usual active surveillance.

_ This suggests that thermal scanning at Cairns airport could be useful for detecting dengue in arriving international passengers, and help reduce the risk of dengue outbreaks in North Queensland."

The National Health and Medical Research Council has allocated $165,438 to fund the six-month trial, which could start as early as March this year. The study is a collaboration between James Cook University, Queensland Health's Tropical Population Health Network, and local general practitioners.

The Australian Management Plan for Pandemic Influenza recommends the use of thermal scanners at airports for fever screening, should pandemic influenza occur in overseas locations.

Infrared thermal scanners have already been purchased by the Australian Department of Health and Ageing. Queensland Health co-investigator Dr Jeffrey Hanna, medical director of the Tropical Population Health Network, said the study would trial different ways of assessing passengers who arrive with fever.

Some would be assessed by nurse practitioners at the airport, while others would be referred to one of a number of GPs trained for the study.

" At the completion of this study, we will be better informed about the best way to manage passengers who arrive in Australia with fevers caused by diseases such as influenza, dengue, or malaria," Dr Hanna said.

Source(s): James Cook University, Australia

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