Airport Thermal Screening Less Than 10% Effective

Airport screening unlikely to detect most 2019-nCoV infected travelers

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According to a new model, thermal scanning at airports may not be very effective at identifying passengers infected with the new coronavirus known as 2019-nCoV.

On January 30, 2020, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) published a model that indicates that for every 100 infected travelers planning to take a 12-hour flight, only 9 will be detected for the 2019-nCoV at entry screening upon arrival.

This model’s accuracy depends on the incubation period, the sensitivity of exit and entry screening, and the proportion of cases that are asymptomatic.

The LSHTM team developed this interactive tool to enable public health authorities around the world to judge for themselves the effectiveness of installing thermal scanners at airports.

Billy Quilty, Research Assistant and Ph.D. student at LSHTM and a member of the modeling team, said in an online statement, “Entry screening of flights from affected areas appears to be a rational measure to prevent importation of coronavirus cases.” 

“However, screening is only able to detect infected travelers who are currently showing symptoms, such as fever.” 

“Our work reinforces that thermal scanning cannot detect every traveler infected with this new coronavirus.”

“Other policies that can decrease the risk of transmission from imported infected individuals, such as providing information on rapidly seeking care if symptoms develop, are crucial,” concluded Quilty.

The LSHTM model code is available via GitHub 7 and the results can be further explored at the R Shiny app

NOTE:  This LSHTM work has not been peer-reviewed. The team acknowledges the limitations of this work, including not knowing how many travelers may be infected with the virus.

Coronavirus travel news published by Vax-Before-Travel.