Airport Fever Scanners vs. Swine Flu

imageI know, I know, the Pigluenza is eating up the lion’s share of media interest. Is it a pandemic? Or is it more of an infodemic? In any case, it’s a hot topic right now, and it’s bringing the idea of a “fever scanner” to the forefront of airport security. Hong Kong has had one of the fever scanners in place since 2003 as a response to the SARS scare. They do not mess around when dealing with sick passengers. Basically, you walk through the scanner and it measures your body temperature. If your body temperature is over 100 degrees, off you go to a secondary screening location staffed with doctors.

If you fail the secondary exam as well, then you’ll be detained and monitored at a clinic. Given the current situation, if you’re diagnosed with flu symptoms and you’ve been in the vicinity of any of the flu epicenters, you’ll be quarantined for a few days. Unfortunately, the scanners have proven to be not so great at detecting fevers. Only one in six people with fevers are detected, and the machine also likes to call false positives on those that have no fever. It’s not a perfect system, but Australia is on board, ready to install the $50,000 machine. The other problem, is that with the swine flu, you’re contagious for several days before you have symptoms — so perhaps a fever scanner isn’t the best idea after all.

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