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Singapore looks for SARS hot-heads

Changi Airport
The new thermal imaging system in action. A red glow could indicate a passenger with a high fever.

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SINGAPORE -- Singapore has turned up the heat on passengers arriving from SARS-affected countries at its international airport.

Thermal imaging scanners are now being employed to screen for passengers who may have a fever -- one of the major symptoms associated with the SARS virus.

Originally intended for military use, the Infrared Fever Sensing System has been used to check passengers at Changi Airport.

The mobile unit works as a thermal imaging sensor, feeding data into a computer. Feverish foreheads show up as red spots, and cool ones as blue, on silhouetted images on a computer screen.

Those showing signs of a fever will be pulled aside to have their temperature taken by a nurse, said Evelyn Ong, a spokeswoman at the government's Defense Science and Technology Agency (DSTA), an agency behind the project.

One of the units is currently in use and another eight will be installed by the end of the week, Ong told The Associated Press.

"One advantage is that it is a friendlier way in which to check temperatures because it's not intrusive to the traveler," said Albert Tjoeng, a spokesman with the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore.

Fourteen people have died from severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) since the outbreak hit the city state.

The airport is currently screening passengers arriving on three daily flights from Hong Kong and China's Guangdong province.

It will begin scanning 19 flights a day from other SARS-affected areas when it gets the new cameras.

The scanners were developed by ST Electronics and the DSTA.

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