Thermometer guns used to screen for coronavirus are ‘notoriously’ unreliable experts say

Thomas Peter/Reuters

As officials struggle to contain a new coronavirus spreading across the globe, travelers worldwide are undergoing unreliable temperature screenings, experts say.

The new coronavirus, first discovered in Wuhan, China in December, has infected nearly 67,000 people and killed more than 1,500, mostly within China. (For the latest case total and death toll, see Business Insider’s live updates.)

Airports, Chinese cities, and even Apple stores have instituted temperature checks to identify potential patients and prevent the virus’s spread. To do this, many governments and businesses rely on thermometer guns devices that use infrared sensors to measure a person’s surface temperature without touching their skin.

“These devices are notoriously not accurate and reliable,” Dr. James Lawler, a medical expert at the University of Nebraska’s Global Center for Health Security, told The New York Times . “Some of it is quite frankly for show.”

That means that many coronavirus cases go undetected through these temperature screenings.

To account for this possibility, the US has instituted a mandatory quarantine of up to two weeks for anyone who’s been to China’s Hubei province within the prior 14 days. But China now relies on daily temperature checks as it struggles to contain the virus.

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