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Several countries plan to introduce non-contact infrared thermometers (NCIT) at international airports in order to detect febrile passengers, thus to delay the introduction of a novel influenza strain. We reviewed the existing studies on fever screening by NCIT to estimate their efficacy under the hypothesis of pandemic influenza. Three Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) or dengue fever interventions in airports were excluded because of insufficient information. Six fever screening studies in other gathering areas, mainly hospitals, were included (N= 176 to 72,327 persons; fever prevalence= 1.2% to 16.9%). Sensitivity varied from 4.0% to 89.6%, specificity from 75.4% to 99.6%, positive predictive value (PPV) from 0.9% to 76.0% and negative predictive value (NPV) from 86.1% to 99.7%. When we fixed fever prevalence at 1% in all studies to allow comparisons, the derived PPV varied from 3.5% to 65.4% and NPV was >=99%. The low PPV suggests limited efficacy of NCIT to detect symptomatic passengers at the early stages of a pandemic influenza, when fever prevalence among passengers would be =<1%. External factors can also impair the screening strategy: passengers can hide their symptoms or cross borders before symptoms occur. These limits should be considered when setting up border control measures to delay the pandemic progression.


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