Emerging infectious diseases in the past two decades, including ebola, SARS, MERS, Chikungunya, swine flu and bird flu, and increasing health consciousness have been driving thermometer market growth for years.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, temperature checks using infrared technology have become the norm in preventing spread, necessitating thermal screening at offices, airports, hospitals and other public places. Noncontact infrared thermometers (NCITs) and thermal imaging systems are now ubiquitous in entry points in these areas. Although considered marginally effective in detecting COVID-19 infection, these remain key tools in efforts at containment worldwide.
Markets and Markets is projecting a CAGR of 9.2 percent for the infrared thermometer market worldwide, reaching $3.6 billion in 2025 from $2.3 billion in 2020.
The medical segment will post the highest CAGR during this period due to the pandemic, with handhelds expected to draw the most interest. Easy to use and inexpensive, these devices will continue to be the chosen temperature screening tool in commercial spaces such as hospitals and healthcare facilities, banks and financial institutions, and the retail, government and hospitality sectors.
The Asia-Pacific region’s wider adoption of medical thermometers in commercial, industrial and residential segments will be a major growth catalyst during the forecast period.
India’s dire situation
Global medical supply chains are in a race to close the gap created by the COVID-19 pandemic in the second most populous country in the world, which finds itself in the midst of a deadly second wave. India’s case count has already surged past 200 million and deaths breached 220,000, with no sign of abating. As of May 5, India accounted for 46 percent of the world’s new cases and a quarter of deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Much needed equipment and supplies are being diverted to the country as its health system is on the brink of collapse. Hindustan News reported that 17 consignments of medical aid arrived between April 24 and May 2 from at least 14 nations. The shipments included oxygen concentrators, medical oxygen cylinders, ventilators, bedside monitors, anti-viral drugs, rapid test kits, pulse oximeters, N95 masks and personal protective equipment.
There are also recent accounts of shortages of clinical thermometers, including mercury-based types, and price gouging. This is concerning because since 2020, the government of India has eased the import norms of infrared thermometers, issuing a no-objection certificate to fast-track their release and eliminate the extensive compliance process outlined in the country’s Legal Metrology Laws.
Beginning April 1, 2020, the central government also began treating medical devices, including syringes, needles, cardiac stents, knee implants, digital thermometers, CT scan, MRIs, dialysis machines, as drugs under the Drugs & Cosmetics Act 1940 and the Drugs & Cosmetics Rules 1945.
Preventing a next India
What is happening in India can happen in other parts of the world. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, there have been calls for a global coordinated response encompassing health, safety and economic issues.
In an article on Vox, Jen Kirby and Umair Irfan quoted Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, “If this pandemic is not controlled in every country in the globe, the globe will still remain at risk and we will see the evolution of new variants that will have implications for vaccines, and we will still have a disrupted world.”
So far, ad-hoc solutions are underway with mobilization efforts by governments and public and private organizations to help India with essential medical equipment and supplies.
Body temperature can be measured by touch or contact and remotely. As COVID-19 is highly contagious, infrared thermometers are the preferred choice as these allow minimal to no contact at all. As such, they do not require constant disinfection, making them easier and faster to use with a large number of people. Other features include displays, built-in timers and rechargeable batteries.
Tympanic or ear thermometers measure temperature within the ear canal. They are quick and comfortable for children and adults but must be positioned correctly. Ear wax, skin or oil buildup or a small or curved ear canal can impact accuracy.
Noncontact infrared thermometers (NCITs) can take a person’s temperature from the temporal artery in the forehead at three to 15cm. Head covers, cold temperatures, direct sunlight, sweat and positioning on the forehead can affect accuracy. NCITs are also used on wrists. The FDA recommends use in a space where there is no draft, direct sunlight or radiant heat source, and allowing NCITs to adjust in the room for 10 to 30 minutes prior to use.
Thermal imaging systems have been deployed, provided their intended use is as medical devices, to make up for the shortage of temperature measurement products. Compared with thermometers that read at a single spot and at closer proximity, these can measure across multiple locations and create a temperature map displaying different levels of heat from parts of a human body.
Accuracy depends on proper setup, operation and preparation of the person being evaluated. According to FDA guidelines, these systems should be in locations where there are no reflective backgrounds, such as glass, mirrors and metallic surfaces, and no draft, direct sunlight, radiant heat and strong lighting. They should be allowed to warm up for 30 minutes before use.
The FDA considers thermal imaging systems adjunctive tools, with readings of elevated temperatures needing clinical correlation through a doctor interview, laboratory testing and patient observation.
Digital thermometers have heat sensors or use infrared rays to determine body temperature. They can be used in the armpit, rectum or under the tongue and provide readings in a minute or less. Because of the clear numeric readings, these thermometers are easier to interpret than traditional mercury-based variants.
Disposable probe covers or sleeves, which are sourced separately, can be used to keep digital thermometers clean without alcohol and minimize contamination.
Disposable thermometers are soft, flexible plastic strips that have no circuits, moving parts and covers. For single-patient use, these usually come individually wrapped and take temperature from the forehead or mouth.
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