The Health Ministry is in advanced negotiations to purchase a new system to detect people with fever and thus reduce the risk of contracting the H1N1 virus (commonly known as swine flu). If the deal goes through, the ministry intends to install the system in four hospitals around the country in the coming weeks.

The device uses a thermal camera to determine whether subjects' faces are emitting heat in excess of a predefined level, which could indicate fever. Swine flu is characterized by a fever of at least 38 degrees Celsius, in combination with at least one of the following symptoms: cough, sore throat, runny nose, muscle pain and headache.

To test the system's effectiveness, it is expected to be installed in four hospitals, with the goal being to first identify passersby who may have a fever and then measuring their body temperature with a thermometer.

In 2003, with the global spread of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), thermal heat detectors were placed in airports around the world, including in Israel, but they proved ineffective in identifying individuals with fever. The new technology, manufactured in Sweden by FLIR Systems, is an improved version of the earlier ones. In recent months more than 1,000 thermal cameras have been placed in public buildings throughout the world, including in the United States, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the Netherlands, Belgium and Finland.

"The camera focuses on the face of the person passing in front of it and allows for the identification of anomalies in body temperature, from a predetermined value, relative to ambient temperature," explained Asio Vision CEO Avi Tiv. "Deviations are examined primarily in the area between the eyes, considered the most accurate point for determining body temperature."

Negotiations have also begun with institutions that could potentially install the thermal camera systems. "Placed in large factories and in army bases, the system can identify people with fever in order to keep them from entering the facility and thus prevent contagion with swine flu of large numbers of people," Tiv said.