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Scientists say COVID-19 temperature checks are not reliable and might do more harm than good: report


Could we get some consistency?

Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

If you've gone to the doctor or the gym or maybe even to your own place of employment, you've likely had your temperature taken. The reason, we've all been told, is that temperature checks are a good way to screen for COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control has told businesses to check employees and doctors to check patients.

But that whole process might be doing more harm than good, according to a new report from Popular Science.

What are they telling us now?

Popular Science reported Tuesday that scientists say the practice of screening via temperature checks is not rooted in science.

The screening method was started in the early 2000s, the magazine noted, to battle the SARS epidemic, and at that point it was a "fairly reliable indicator of a SARS infection."

But that's not true for the novel coronavirus the world is currently battling, Arizona State University professor of biomedical diagnostics Mara Aspinall told Popular Science.

Temperature checks are "almost useless this time around," Aspinall said.

She also noted that data shows that less than half of people with COVID-19 ever get a fever and that people who do show symptoms are frequently contagious before their temperature shoots up.

Executive Vice President of Scripps Research Eric Topol told Popular Science, "There's never been any data to show that it's prevented any transmissions [of COVID-19]. The temperature check is of no value. It should be abandoned."

According to the magazine, fevers are not likely to show up at all among both the group of patients most likely to be asymptomatic spreaders — young people — and the group that is most vulnerable — the elderly and "immunocompromised individuals."

Young folks are more likely to not show any symptoms, including fever, and the elderly just aren't healthy enough to mount a fever, the outlet said.

And with flu season approaching, good luck using temperature checks to effectively screen for COVID-19, Aspinall noted.

The magazine stated that "temperature checks won't help, and they may hurt," because such an ineffective method of screening could cause lull people into a false sense of security.

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