Right now, the entire world is celebrating the arrival of vaccines to curb COVID-19 infections through acquired immunity. Countries are preparing for massive vaccination drives in their individual histories, and people are breathing sighs of relief at last. According to the words of one of the first health workers to receive the jab in the US, Sandra Lindsay, the world is starting to heal. The program aims to reach about 100 million citizens by April. Undoubtedly, it has been an unbelievable event in the history of pandemics. As we know, vaccines for the previous ones were not developed before, at least 2-3 years.
For COVID-19, we are lucky to have received the vaccine so fast. Although it is yet to see if the vaccine is effective against the virus or its mutated strains, one of which is ravaging the UK. Scientists and health professionals are optimistic about the effects of the vaccine candidates in reducing the infection rate, but only time will say if they are right.
Now, will the world return to normal immediately after everyone gets vaccinated?
It is too soon to answer that question. Currently, all the government bodies and global authorities are trying to analyze the situation and determine how long it will take to vaccinate seven billion people in the world. According to some experts, it may take another year or two to immunize everyone out there. So, will the world be in the same situation for another 1-2 years?
No, of course, that is not possible!
However, we may have to keep following the preventive measures and maintain social distancing to stop the spread. On one hand, the vaccination drive will immunize people, and on the other, we have to do our job in ensuring safety against the virus. Hence, masks, sanitizers, and thermal scanners are not losing their jobs any time soon.
What about the post-vaccination world? Will we need protective equipment then? Let us dig deeper into the matter to understand it better. But first of all-
How thermal scanners fall in the category of protective equipment?
Let us first clear the common myth about infrared scanners using thermal-scanning technology to measure body temperature from a distance. No! They do not detect COVID-19 infections. However, as about 55.5% of patients have cold-fever fever as one of the prevalent symptoms, feverish people are asked to stay indoors and isolated for some time. This idea that COVID-19 infections can be detected with fever gave birth to the thermal-scanning trend.
No-touch thermometers, thermal guns, and sensors became available to detect fever in people and keep them separate from the apparently-healthier crowd. The people having fever were also refrained from entering public spaces, like hotels, restaurants, education institutes, shopping malls, retail stores, factories, offices, etc. in hospitals and health centers, they were politely asked to sit away from others who did not have a fever. In many cases, such actions succeeded in keeping infected people away from the healthy population and preventing the spread. And it became possible for the thermal scanners. Hence, there is little doubt that these infrared scanners indeed fall in the category of protective equipment, one of our ammunition against the pandemic.
How do the no-touch scanners detect fever?
At first, no country was ready to go all-in in their fight against the coronavirus, and lockdowns ensued. However, soon the nations realized that locking themselves down will only help buy time and nothing else. Hence, they came out with advanced protective equipment, including the infrared fever scanners that are now regarded indispensable in the fight against coronavirus.
The idea that infrared imaging can help detect fever gave relief to the health workers and frontline warriors in the pandemic. Any living thing gives out a certain amount of infrared radiation that can be mapped and detected with infrared scanning - the same technology used in the modern fever scanners. This radiation emitted from the surface of the skin gives an idea about a person’s core body temperature, thus concluding if s/he has a fever. Hence, the modern-day infrared fever scanners can detect fever by scanning the radiation and mapping it to measure the body temperature of an individual from a distance. Although these cannot detect specific COVID-19 infections, it can separate a group of possibly-infected people from the healthier population (ones with no fever).
Are the infrared scanners effective enough?
Many health experts challenge that detecting fever is not enough to identify infected people, as only half the population experiences such symptoms. Well, that is true, but then again, no preventive measure is 100% effective, right? Even the surgical and N95 masks offer about 95% protection against infected droplets. But we still wear them to protect ourselves and our families. A combination of several measures may help us combat the virus and defeat the pandemic.
And thermal scanning is nothing new to medical science. It is being used by health professionals for over two decades now. The previous devices and thermal cameras have been upgraded to meet the current requirements of the COVID-19 pandemic. With better accuracy at detecting core temperature, real-time calibration, and self-sufficiency, these devices have undergone various advancements to help us fight the pandemic with a new zeal.
People were dying to come out of their homes during the lockdown. Hence, it was essential to improve security measures to prepare for a surge in traffic after the lockdown got lifted in phases. There is no denying that the advanced thermal scanners, along with the abundant supply of masks and sanitizers helped the world protect the healthy population to a certain extent. Even with the arrival of the vaccines, one should be careful while stepping out of their homes, opening shops for customers, commuting to work, or availing of recreational facilities. The rule of thumb goes something like this – If you have a fever and are detected so, stay at home for your benefit and those of others.
How are modern thermal scanners different?
To keep it short and precise, they are more advanced in terms of accuracy and speed of screening. Unlike the previous scanners, a higher number of people can screen themselves before entering a public space. No more do you need to line up in front of a retail store or any other place to get your body temperature detected. With the advanced infrared scanners, you can just put your fist out and get scanned under a sensor that will give you necessary instructions during the procedure, all within a few seconds!
Accuracy was also a hindering factor for the thermal scanners used in the initial days of the pandemic. It was observed that those are unable to detect fever accurately from a distance. After careful analysis, it was noticed that most of the fever scanners that scanned body temperature from the forehead failed to meet the accuracy demands. Perspiration, makeup, headgear, and hair on the forehead affected the readings to a huge extent. The manufacturers then came up with the idea of scanning temperature from the fist or wrist. As these areas have blood vessels close to the surface of the skin, blood circulation carried any temperature elevation to the measuring area, thus improving accuracy. Further, the uncovered fist or wrist area has less hair than on the forehead. Besides, no one tends to apply makeup in these areas. Hence, fist-forward technology is regarded as an advanced way of measuring temperature from a distance. Almost all the modern fever scanners detect temperature elevations from these areas.
What is the role of thermal scanners in a post-vaccinated world?
While we know that immunizing the entire global population may take some time, and the fever scanners will be required during this phase, what will their function once it all gets over for good? Well, the trauma that our generation has faced during the pandemic has instilled certain habits in them. One of these is social distancing.
Even when the COVID-19 pandemic is over, we will feel somewhat hesitant to be close to a person having a fever, even if it is just seasonal flu. And this holds for the medical practitioners as well. We may even see a drastic improvement in fever detection, with no-touch scanning being the preferred method. The conventional thermometers may even go obsolete in a few years.
There is nothing to be upset about this trend, as touching a patient with god-knows-what infection to detect core body temperature is anything but hygienic. So, this can be a healthy change in the field of medicine. Further, the pandemic has proved how viruses can bring the world to a standstill. According to many scientists, COVID-19 is not the last pandemic in the world, and we should be prepared for the upcoming ones. As a result, the ammunitions that we have gathered in this one may be required in the future, when a variant tries to incur the same damage or even worse.
So, if you ask me, the infrared thermal scanners have a permanent job in healthcare and other industries. They are not to be sacked any soon.
How can Machine Sense help in this situation?
Machine sense is a tech company in the US that manufactures and distributes advanced self-sufficient thermal scanners, namely, FeverWarn. It can be mounted on a stand to be kept at the building's entrance to scan the people entering it effectively. FeverWarn detects temperature elevations from the fist, thus giving an accuracy of +/-0.9F. It also comes with USB and cloud storage facilities to maintain records of the readings and prevent future liabilities. Further, you can plus a smart lock into the USB adapter of the device to operate commercial doors at every entrance. Being affordable and self-servicing, FeverWarn is, undoubtedly, the need of the hour for every public space, like retail stores, offices, shopping malls, factories, and educational institutes.