Dogs are truly man’s (and woman’s) best friend. After providing love, comfort, and companionship throughout the pandemic, dogs are now stepping up to help humans travel more safely during Covid-19.
According to USA Today, two trained detection dogs, Cobra and One Betta, are using their powerful noses to screen American Airline employees for Covid-19 as part of a pilot program underway at Miami International Airport. Depending on its success, the program may eventually be rolled out to additional security checkpoints.
“Dogs could be more sensitive than some of our instruments and detect the virus sooner,” Kenneth Furton, a provost, and professor at Florida International University – which collaborated with MIA on this project — told USA Today.
Covid detector dogs like Cobra and One Betta have a 96 to 99% detection rate, according to Miami International Airport. In fact, these talented pups quickly proved their expertise by sniffing out two infected employees within their first two weeks on the job.
After the dogs — who can smell metabolic changes triggered by covid-19 in human breath and sweat — make an alert, employees are instructed to take a rapid PCR test. The results confirmed that Cobra and One Betta, a Belgian Malinois and Dutch Shepherd, respectively, were indeed correct. The PCR tests found that one airline employee hadn’t been tested. The second employee, while technically passing their PCR test, had just recently recovered from covid-19.
Not only are Cobra and One Betta pro pups, they’re also fast learners. Both detection dogs reportedly learned their new, lifesaving skills after just 3 days on the job.
“If you’re training a brand-new dog, it can take two or three months,” Furton told USA Today. But seasoned detection dogs like Cobra and One Betta — who were previously charged with sniffing out invasive tree fungi — can pick up new scents even more quickly. “It only took two or three days for these dogs and three weeks for them to become proficient,” he said.
These early results suggest that Covid-detection dogs could be a game-changer for air travelers during covid-19, which has added additional danger and complexity to travel.
“Being able to apply decades of research in this way, to provide an additional layer of protection to airport employees at Miami International Airport, it’s humbling,” said Dr. Furton. “These dogs are another valuable tool we can leverage to help us live with this ongoing pandemic.”