The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Department of Homeland Security recently announced that that travelers from the three countries hardest hit by the Ebola virus will be screened for the disease as they enter the United States. While federal authorities have said that these measures will do much to prevent the spread of Ebola in the United States, two existing documents that resulted from the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak may hold another key to keeping the disease from spreading, according to the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI).
Six years ago, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) released IEC 80601-2-59:2008, Medical electrical equipment – Part 2-59: Particular requirements for basic safety and essential performance of screening thermographs for human febrile temperature screening. The document details requirements for equipment using infrared technology to detect heat being emitted from a person’s face, potentially signifying an infection. These thermographs could be used at key locations, such as ports of entry and exit, hospitals, and government buildings, to identify potentially infected people.
A technical report (TR) from the International Organization for Standardization, ISO/TR 13154:2009, Medical electrical equipment – Deployment, implementation and operational guidelines for identifying febrile humans using a screening thermograph, also provides information on how to best use fever screening to detect infected persons during pandemic situations.
“Because panic can lead to misdirected energies that waste previous resources, the ISO technical report deserves high marks for providing an important first step in the face of outbreaks of influenza and other infectious diseases, such as SARS, tuberculosis, anthrax, and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and other biological or bacterial agents whose early detection is vital,” said Dave Osborn, secretary of the ISO subcommittee responsible for the document, in a May 2009 statement announcing the TR’s release.
The guidance detailed in these reports could enhance plans in place to assess passengers from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
“The screening equipment could be at international ports of entry as well as every hospital entrance, particularly the ER entrance, as it affords a non-contact means of screening for fever,” Osborn said in an e-mail to AAMI.
This enhanced screening has gone into effect at the following airports: New York–JFK International, Washington–Dulles, Chicago–O’Hare, Newark–Liberty International, and Atlanta–Hartsfield Jackson.
Meanwhile, lawmakers are holding hearings on Capitol Hill, looking into how prepared U.S. points of entry, healthcare facilities, and other institutions are in identifying, diagnosing, isolating, and treating Ebola patients.