Experts say NCITs May Not Adequately Screen for COVID-19

In an editorial published in the Open Forum Infectious Diseases, William Wright, of Johns Hopkins Medicine, and Philip Mackowiak, of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, say temperature screenings may be largely ineffective for curbing the spread of COVID-19. Although infected individuals commonly present with a fever, Wright and Mackowiak explain that readings are often taken with non-contact infrared thermometers (NCIT), an instrument they report is influenced by numerous human, environmental and equipment variables. Consequently, these factors can affect their “accuracy, reproducibility and relationship” with body temperature, leading to unreliable measurements. This conclusion, according to the authors, is evidenced by statistics, including detection of only a single SARS-CoV-2 infection out of the over 46,000 travelers screened with NCITs in select airports since February 23, 2020.

As summarized by Science Daily, the manuscript calls for improved COVID-19 screening practices and suggests consideration of the following:

  • reduction of the current fever threshold, especially for those who are elderly or immunocompromised;
  • group testing to enable real-time monitoring in a manageable situation;
  • wearable “smart” thermometers that pair with GPS devices such as smartphones; and
  • analysis of sewage sludge for the virus.

Due to evolving evidence, MLMIC policyholders are advised to monitor emerging information pertaining to testing, transmission and treatment of COVID-19. Additionally, MLMIC has assembled a number of critical resources to support New York physicians as they navigate the pandemic. This information, which includes the latest developments in medicine and government, can be accessed on our website.