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Can Thermal Scanners Detect Covid-19 Infections?

Thermal scanners are designed to detect the surface temperature of an object or body, which will be guided by the amount of heat being radiated by that person or object. The temperature being emitted can be a sign of a fever, which is what users of the thermal scanners are relying on. 

image of a thermal scanner camera

Thermal scanner at an airport

Thermal scanners work by being placed in positions enabling them to detect the heat being radiated from a person’s skin. Examples of this placement could be entryways or counters (such as immigration counters in the Australian airports). These can be used in a no-touch situation so that they continuously scan people around and raise an alert or alarm if a suspected fever is detected. 

However, thermal scanners are not highly reliable as they do not take into consideration things such as the effects of exercise or outdoor temperature on the skin and body, therefore providing false readings. Additional factors influencing a person’s skin temperature can include menopause, weight, vascular diseases, other health conditions, or radiating heat from nearby objects. 

 Although thermal scanners can be a beneficial tool in detecting possible fevers, it is not reliable and conclusive in detecting COVID-19 infections, as fevers are only one of the symptoms. Furthermore, it doesn’t account for asymptomatic infections or the detection of other COVID-19 symptoms. Lastly, due to the incubation period of COVID-19, people with COVID-19 may not yet be exhibiting symptoms (and therefore a fever) at the time in which the thermal scanner reads their temperature. 


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