Covid-19: Non-contact thermometers miss 5 out of 6 fever readings, says study

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According to a study published in the American Journal of Infection Control, the accuracy of the widely used No-Touch Thermometers for public temperature screenings is under question.

This comes amid global spread of Covid-19 infection, with fever as one of the most common symptoms of the virus. The study was conducted to explore the difference in accuracy between Temporal Artery Thermometers (TAT) and No-Touch Thermometers.

Australian researchers conducted a prospective observational study on a sample of 265 non-infectious patients at two hospitals.

During the observational study, when No-Touch Thermometers and Temporal Artery Thermometers were used to collect the body temperature recordings, the body temperatures read below 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit, the thermometers showed similar results. However, as temperatures rose above that, No-Touch Thermometers’ accuracy decreased.

Temperatures were farther apart as they rose. The No-Touch Thermometers missed five out of every six fevers detected by Temporal Artery Thermometers (TAT). In comparison, the accuracy of the Temporal Scanner is supported by more than 80 peer-reviewed published clinical studies.

Dr C S Pandav, Global Public Health Expert, Former, HoD, Community Medicine, AIIMS, New Delhi said in an official statement: “Temperature measurement can be one part of the assessment to determine if a person has an elevated temperature potentially caused by Covid-19 infection. One method to measure a person’s surface temperature is the use of ‘No-touch’ or non-contact temperature assessment devices; however, these devices have certain limitations.”

He added: “The recent prospective observational study by Australian researchers done on non-infectious patients has also shown promising results in measuring actual body temperature ‘No-touch’ devices are found to be ineffective, while the accuracy of the measurements of Temporal Artery Thermometers (TAT) seems to be promising. Temporal Artery Temperatures seem to be quite promising for India as Accuracy matters, as it can be the difference between life and death.”

Dr Pandav was not part of the study.

“As the Covid-19 pandemic is here to stay until the well-tested vaccines are being introduced, more adults and children are going back to work and school. Screening for fever, a primary symptom of Covid-19, has therefore never been more important. However, as per the recent study, non-contact thermometers are providing very false security as they are proven to be inaccurate in measuring core body temperature,” said Dr Tarun Sahni, Head Internal Medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi, President, Hyperbaric Society of India, who was not the part of the study.

He added: “However, thermometers with extensive clinical studies, such as TAT (Temporal Artery Thermometers), are looking quite promising & can be trusted for accuracy during these threatening times of Covid, which is also proven by the observational study done in Australia. We in India look at such a promising & reassuring solution in form of TAT Thermometers in near future in a very positive way.”

Temporal Artery Thermometers use an infrared scanner to measure the temperature of the temporal artery in the forehead by slightly and gently scanning the forehead. They read the infrared heat waves released by the temporal artery, which is close to the surface of the skin.



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