IR & The Pandemic

The Corona Virus
has changed Infrared Imaging

The COVID-19 Virus has created an expanded and unexpected application and demand for Infrared Thermal Imaging, typically utilized in the industrial, security and military sectors.

As the very survival of entire industries are now dependent on the survival and wellness of their employees, infrared imaging devices are in high demand.

The demand is growing by the day in an industry that, like the rest of the world, was unprepared for the demands of this pandemic.  All aspects of infrared thermal imaging industry from sales to manufacturing and supply chains, are currently working at maximum capacity to provide infrared thermal cameras across the globe. However, in the struggle to meet the demand, but out of necessity, most thermography systems and software that were not designed for or appropriate for mass human screening are now present in the marketplace.

When properly implemented, thermography is the most efficient, non-contact, cost effective and reasonably accurate solution for mass fever screening.  However, with continued improper use including disregard for protocol guidelines, it will become merely a prop for perceived action in a panic situation.

Infrared thermal imaging has the potential to make a significant contribution to a substantial reduction in unnecessary illness and death due to the spread virus.

IR & Pandemic History

With the global experience of the SARS epidemic in China in 2002-3, when Infrared imaging was first used for mass screening, and then again the Ebola outbreak in 2014-16, there was a realization that  the lack of global preparedness would someday be a challenge.

Someday is now.

Due to expected future unpreparedness, guidelines were established and updated in 2017 to assist businesses and organizations in making good decisions in these difficult times, by the International Standards Organization. Reference ISO TR13154:2017 (E)) (implementation) and 18251-1:2017(E) (technical)


Partial list of recommended implementation protocols:

  • Detect infrared radiation emitted from the FACE with only one person in view
  • Obtain a temperature reading from the TARGET (Between the eyes). Research has demonstrated this to be a robust measurement site and is supplied by the internal carotid artery
  • Compare that temperature reading to the Control Group Temperature to determine if the person has a comparative Elevated Body Temperature
  •  The screening thermograph shall be provided with at least one-color mapping mode where the colors follow the order of the visible spectrum such that blue is cooler and red is hotter
  • Screening should take place in indoor conditions
  • The FACE should be unobstructed by hair, eyeglasses, and other objects because their presence will interfere with the ability of a SCREENING THERMOGRAPH to detect an elevated body temperature condition.


These are some of the concerns that prompted the ISO guidelines:

  1. The relationship between core temperature (i.e. thermometer reading temperature) and skin temperature. An infrared camera, or any device that measures skin temperature, is not a replacement for a basal thermometer
  2. The inability to detect elevated body temperature (EBT) in the days and weeks before symptoms manifested (incubation period), is well known to all health authorities. However, it is widely believed that thermal screening in combination with follow-up basal temperature confirmation may reduce spread statistics by up to 50%
  3. Camera quality and usage at installation sites

As delivery schedules and cost are factors for making decisions, understanding techniques and methods as well as ongoing support are essential if a business or organization is seeking a long-term solution. As there is a rush to install infrared systems in the short term, the resulting delayed delivery schedules will also provide buyers with time to assess the value of the systems initially purchased.


Everyone experiences fever from time to time. It does not mean they have a specific disease (COVID-19).  Mass screening does not provide a diagnosis.  The FDA defines “Fever” as a diagnosis on its own. Therefore, thermal imaging screens individuals for “Elevated Body Temperature”.

  • A fever is the body’s natural emergency response to an invasive pathogen. The internal heat is a means of killing the invading virus or bacterial infection, which has been present in the body for days or even weeks.
  • This normal reaction brings other uncomfortable symptoms like concentration issues, body aches and headaches. Someone with an elevated basal temperature is aware they are not well.
  • Ranges in internal Body (Basal) Temperatures
    • Temperature can increase throughout the day as much as 1 °F
    • A normal oral temperature for a resting, healthy adult can vary between 97 & 99 °F depending on age and time of day
    • Medical professionals consider a basal temperature above 100.4°F indicates a fever
    • Temperatures between 99°F and 100.4°F are called low-grade fever.
    • Temperatures between 105.8°F (41°C) and 109.4°F are life threatening.
    • Weather conditions can affect the skin temperature without affecting the basal or internal temperature

Techniques for monitoring human temperature is different than monitoring objects.  The variables above must be considered. Med-Hot Thermal Imaging has been in the specialty sector of clinical thermography for two decades and experienced in the variables related to the relationship between internal body temperature (suggesting elevated temperature) and external temperatures and conditions and how that affects the information provided to the user.  Our objective is to provide useful, guiding information for the most efficient, effective implementation of infrared thermal imaging for the ultimate protection of the employees and business.