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Sniffer dogs deployed to combat Covid-19 virus

A GSD at Dubai airport looks up at its handler dog-wow
© Emirates News Agency – YouTube

Those of us that travel will be used to the frantic quest of portside sniffer dogs to detect smuggled drugs and cash. But now the sniffer dogs’ quarry is a little less obvious.

By Nick Whittle

Published on the 17/08/2020, 21:00, Updated on the 08/02/2021, 13:26

It was bound to happen. Just two months ago we heard of programs of canine training to enable certain dogs to detect people with Coronavirus. 

Now the UAE has instigated trainee K9s at airports around the region including Dubai International Airport. The purpose of each dog is to sniff out passengers with the virus in order that the UAE authorities can either turn them away or order their quarantine. 

This may be seen as a leap forward in the detection of C-19, but in order to bring about a result the dog must be in contact with a small sample of (presumably) the passenger’s saliva. 

Thus, although an excellent way to stem the spread of the disease, it relies still on human operators to spot and halt passengers whom they believe are a biological liability. 

International efforts 

In May of this year the BBC reported on a similar trial using dogs that were already capable of detecting certain cancers and neurological disorders. 

The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine headed up the research which is ongoing and backed by £500,000 of public money. 

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Innovation minister Lord Bethell then told the BBC he hoped the dogs could provide "speedy results", and become a valuable part of the government’s strategy to eliminate C-19. 

A video of the UAE trials can be viewed here: 

Watch also: Government delivers funding to research of C19 detector dogs