First in US: Amazing Dogs Sniff Out COVID In Miami-Dade Airport
The first COVID-sniffing dogs to be used at airport screening stations debuted in Miami, Florida, and Miami-Dade Commission Chair Jose “Pepe” Diaz says the new program is a huge win for their community.
COVID-sniffing dogs have already been used at a Miami Heat Game and the South Beach Wine and Food Festival. Miami International Airport is their newest gig, and they’re part of a 30-day pilot program.
The very good boys and girls are specially trained to detect COVID and they may even one day alert officials of potentially infected travelers before they board any planes.
The dogs will check the health of airport employees at first. Airport officials say that a resolution sponsored by Miami-Dade County Commissioner Kionne McGhee has the county aviation department partnering with Florida International University (FIU).
The FIU researchers trained the dogs prior to their participation in actual consumer settings. The dogs sniff out a specific odor that is metabolically produced in people who are infected with the virus.
As part of the training, the dogs smelled masks from people who were infected with the virus, but were deactivated with ultraviolet light to protect the dogs.
Currently, the dogs are a Belgian Malinois and Dutch Sheperd named Cobra and One Betta, respectively. Florida’s COVID numbers are high, and the dogs will check employees of the airport to signal whether or not an individual will need to take a rapid test for the airport’s safety.
Dr. Furton, a provost and professor of chemistry and biochemistry at FIU said that not only are dogs trainable for this, but they’re supremely accurate. He says it even rivals traditional tests and even some lab equipment. FIU published a double-blind study that showed their accuracy to be 96-99% for detecting the virus. One Betta’s accuracy was 98.1% and Cobra’s was 99.4%! Dr. Furton said Cobra was almost never wrong.
Other countries like the United Arabe Emirates and Finland have been testing dogs sniffing COVID since last summer. Dogs have 50 times as many smell receptors as humans and are often used to sniff out not just explosives or drugs but medical conditions as well.