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Feds Grow Sick of SARS Scanners

Date: December 08, 2004

By Tom GodfreyToronto Sun

Toronto. December 7, 2004. INFRARED CAMERAS used to fight SARS are being yanked from two of Canada’s busiest airports just as the flu and holiday season begin. Workers will today remove from Pearson airport the three infrared cameras that have been scanning arriving international travellers for symptoms of SARS over the past 18 months.

“We would have preferred to have them in there for the cold and flu season,” said Greg Bork, of FLIR Systems Ltd., which supplied the cameras to Pearson.

Three other cameras — or thermal scanners — have already been removed from Vancouver airport after a Health Canada contract with the two suppliers expired last Tuesday. The cameras were part of a pilot project launched last May to prevent the spread of SARS.

“As a Canadian I am concerned,” said Jake Giacomelli, the Canadian sales rep for Mikron Infrared, which provided cameras for Vancouver.

“We have absolutely no front-line defence in Canada for any diseases,” Giacomelli said. “We have no protection whatsoever.”

But Health Canada spokesman Nathalie Lalonde said thermal scanning is not effective in detecting severe respiratory illnesses in travellers.

“The public health agencies of Canada remain vigilant through the quarantine services,” Lalonde said.

It cost the agency about $40,000 monthly to rent the gear, which is in permanent use at airports in Singapore, Hong Kong, China and Malaysia.

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