Entry screening for severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) or influenza: policy evaluation

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: (Published 24 November 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:1242
  1. R J Pitman, senior scientist (,
  2. B S Cooper, senior scientist1,
  3. C L Trotter, senior scientist1,
  4. N J Gay, principal scientist1,
  5. W J Edmunds
  1. 1Modelling and Economics Unit, Health Protection Agency, Centre for Infections, London NW9 5EQ
  1. Correspondence to: R J Pitman
  • Accepted 19 July 2005


The appearance of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and recent outbreaks of avian influenza have raised the question of how best to protect the population of England and Wales from such infections. Entry screening is at present of unknown benefit.

We assess the possible benefit of entry screening for SARS and pandemic influenza should an epidemic occur.

Methods and results

Throughout this analysis, we assume that effective exit screening is in place, that symptomatic patients will not be allowed to board flights, and that the value of entry screening is to detect people who develop symptoms in flight.

We estimated the incubation periods for influenza and SARS from published sources.1 2 We used these distributions to estimate the proportion of individuals with initially latent SARS and influenza infection developing symptoms during a flight from any of the top 100 sources of international airline passengers to the United …

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