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Thermo imaging camera to trial at Auckland Airport

Ministry to trial thermo imaging camera at Auckland Airport

The Ministry of Health is to explore how useful a thermo imaging camera will be in enhancing our border protection against SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome).

The Ministry will trial a thermo imaging camera at Auckland International Airport next week, and the camera will work by detecting images of arriving passengers and displaying their different temperatures in different colours.

"One of the symptoms of SARS is a body temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or over. Staff monitoring the camera will approach any passenger or airline crew identified by the camera as having a temperature of 38 degrees or over. A SARS nurse at the airport will then assess them further," says Director of Public Health Dr Colin Tukuitonga.

The camera is being loaned to the Ministry by a New Zealand company. It will be trialed over three days between 10am and 2pm, when large volumes of international passengers arrive at the airport. The camera is specified to have accuracy at 30 degrees Celsius of 0.07 degrees Celsius.

"Keeping SARS out of New Zealand continues to be a key priority and we're keen to explore whether this camera can add value to our border protection measures," says Dr Tukuitonga.

"It is important to note, however, that the use of this camera is only a trial at this stage. Once the trial is over we'll need to ask a series of questions such as whether it will work logistically at the airport, and because of the pre-departure measures at overseas airports it is possible the camera will detect very few passengers with temperatures resulting from SARS. These are things we'll be looking at closely."

Enhancing our border protection against SARS is regularly reviewed. Nurses are stationed at Auckland, Wellington, Queenstown and Christchurch international airports, where they offer arriving passengers frontline advice, support and screening as required. Nurses also work closely with Medical Officers of Health as well as with airport and border control authorities.

SARS alert posters and information pamphlets are at our international airports, and airlines continue to be vigilant for signs of symptoms among passengers. All passengers flying into New Zealand are being given information on SARS that is translated into several different languages.

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