Will temperature checks actually work? What else can schools and businesses do to quickly scan for potentially infectious people?

Clinical Symptoms Infection and Spread Reopening School

A: There’s reason to be skeptical about temperature checks. COVID-19 is infectious for several days before symptoms appear. Scanning folks as they enter a building for a fever won’t do much to prevent people who are pre-symptomatic from entering and spewing infectious droplets all over the place. Gross.

At this point, we need to embrace multiple approaches to quash this virus. If thermometer scans prevent even one superspreader event, then it would be thermometers well used. As a reminder, nobody’s arguing that widespread temperature checks are enough. But they may help, and we need all the help we can get.

Another approach involves asking people to take a sniff test. One of the cardinal and distinctive symptoms of COVID-19 is the loss of smell, which occurs in over 80% of COVID-19 patients. Since this symptom typically occurs BEFORE a fever (which may not occur at all), asking candidate building occupants to take a whiff of something may be an earlier and more reliable marker of infection than a fever.

Even better, before you leave the house, take the test yourself. Keep a sniff sachet by the door (or if all else fails, grab your son’s stinky sneaker). If you or anyone in your pod doesn’t smell it, please refrain from going to public spaces. Even if you are able to enjoy that refreshing mint and eucalyptus combo scent, don’t forget to #maskup!

As for other strategies to do efficient scanning of the population, earlier we discussed the potential for specially-trained COVID-sniffing dogs to detect infected patients. Their nose knows.

STAT News Article

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