Dogs can be trained to do lots of incredible tasks, especially when it comes to using their noses. Currently, airport dogs are used to sniff out drugs and weapons, but soon they could become even more valuable. With a history of being able to detect cancer and malaria, scientists expect that airport dogs will soon be able to sniff travelers for COVID-19 too.
During the ongoing pandemic, it’s difficult for people to travel. However, with these dogs on the lookout for people with the virus, airports could quickly become much safer.
Medical Detection Dogs has selected a group of six dogs to train for coronavirus detection at airports. They could play an essential role in reducing the amount of COVID-19 cases. The team of dogs called “The Super Six” consists of a group of Labrador and Cocker Spaniel mixes and purebreds. Their names are Norman, Digby, Storm, Star, Jasper, and Asher.
Training the Dogs
The trials that the six dogs are going through are already looking promising. After all, a dog’s nose is truly incredible.
“It builds up on years of research that we’ve done as a team to demonstrate that people who have a malaria infection have a distinct body odor and we’ve shown that dogs can be trained to detect that with very high accuracy,” said Professor James Logan, the lead researcher on the project.
In order to train these dogs to smell COVID-19, Logan had to collect some odor samples. For the trials, he uses people that have the virus along with people that don’t. Then, he has them wear masks for a few hours. He also has them wear nylon socks, which is another great way to catch someone’s scent.
Next, these odor samples are passed on to the dogs. These masks and socks should help the dogs learn to distinguish the different smells. If these trials turn out to be successful, this could be a great way to get the travel industry up and running again.
How Soon Will the Dogs Start Working?
Currently, all six dogs are still in the trial process. However, if all goes well, the dogs could start working very soon. It’s possible that they could be ready in as little as 8 to 10 weeks, but researchers just don’t know for sure at this time.
“The basic idea is we can screen travelers innocently coming into this country who may be carrying COVID-19, detect those people, and isolate them from the rest of the community,” said Professor Steve Lindsay, a public health entomologist at UK’s Durham University.
Ideally, these dogs should be able to screen up to 250 people per day. They should be able to catch the virus even before symptoms appear on a person. It’s definitely something we need during these difficult times.
While these six incredible dogs continue to train, it’s crucial that we continue to social distance. Please wear a mask and stay six feet away from others until this pandemic ends. These dogs might be able to make things easier for us, but we just need to be patient.