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Northern Health receiving 17 early detection COVID-19 scanners from B.C.-based company

Some 48 early COVID-19 detection ultrasound scanners to serve 33 B.C. communities
Clarius pocket ultrasound scanner. (via Submitted)

A B.C. mobile health company is set to distribute what it believes can detect early signs of COVID-19.

Clarius, based in Burnaby, is giving nearly 50 ultrasound scanners to authorities across the province, including 17 to Northern Health to serve 36 per cent of the region's communities.

The scanners pair a commercial ultrasound device with an online library of lung ultrasound images and a specially developed artificial intelligence algorithm to allow health care workers to give a diagnosis almost instantly.

Clarius Mobile Health designed the scanners, known as PoCUS, for point-of-care ultrasound.

Vice-president of research and development Kris Dickie said the technology has become very useful for picking up a “twinkling” on the surface of COVID-19 patients’ lungs that indicate pneumonia.

Dr. Teresa Tsang, a project co-leader and a UBC cardiologist, professor of medicine and director of echocardiography at Vancouver General Hospital and UBC Hospital, said use of the scanners could potentially detect COVID-19 lung changes while waiting for lab test results.

UBC has said 30-plus scanners would be distributed to urban acute care sites managed by Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH).

The remaining distribution is as follows:

  • Interior Health – 20 reaching 39 per cent of regional communities
  • Vancouver Island Health – seven reaching 22 per cent of regional communities

It remains unknown how many would be distributed in Fraser Health, B.C.’s largest health authority.

As well, parts of Vancouver Coastal Health Authority – the Sunshine Coast, Coast Garibaldi, Bella Bella and Bella Coola – are considered rural and four scanners have been assigned to three communities in those areas.

The urban scanners are still being allocated and are expected to be at various VCH and Providence Health Care facilities.

As of this publication, there are 63 positive cases of COVID-19 in northern B.C., which includes 61 recoveries and one person in ICU.

- with files from Jeremy Hainsworth, Glacier Media