By Shylo R. Johnson and Mike R. Dunbar, USDA/APHIS/WS/National Wildlife Research Center, Fort Collins, CO
Remarkable advances and recent research indicate that infrared thermography (IRT) can be used to remote detect infectious diseases in wildlife and domestic animals. Research has shown that IRT can be used to detect some diseases before the development of clinical signs and shedding of the pathogen, which may reduce transmission of diseases such as foot-and-mouth. Recent research has also indicated IRT can detect rabies in captive wildlife and we have expanded on that research to determine IRT’s application in the field. Other research includes assessing IRT’s application potential for detecting classical swine fever, bovine tuberculosis, avian influenza, and other infectious diseases. This research often focuses on identifying a thermal pattern that may be unique for the disease, but many times the first sign of an infectious disease is an increase in body temperature. Research on infected ponies and mule deer has indicated a correlation between IRT eye temperature and body temperature. Although there are obstacles that persist with use of infrared thermography to accurately detect diseases in animals, its potential in disease detection applications is promising. Continued research is providing a better understanding of the utility of such a technique, especially in the field.