Dubai International Airport Becomes the First to Deploy Coronavirus-sniffing Dogs

Results are said to have a 92 percent accuracy rate.

Dubai has recruited dogs to help in the fight against COVID-19.

The coronavirus-sniffing canines are hard at work at Dubai International Airport, testing samples from travelers visiting the country, the Dubai-based National reports.

Dubai opened to tourists in July and currently requires visitors to provide evidence of a negative coronavirus test taken within 96 hours of travel. Dubai officials have also begun taking sweat samples from visitors upon arrival to put under the noses of specially trained dogs.

Dogs have about 300 million olfactory receptions, giving them a sense of smell estimated to be up to 100,000 times more sensitive than humans — a trait that has made them especially popular recruits for bomb and drug sniffing. Their strong sense of smell also means they can detect diseases such as cancer.

A dog for detecting drugs at the airport standing near the customs guard
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“The potential impact of these dogs and their capacity to detect COVID-19 could be substantial,” Cynthia Otto, director of Penn Vet Working Dog Center said in April while embarking on a test of dogs’ COVID-19 recognition abilities. The university also said it has received strong interest from organizations looking to employ canine COVID-19 detectors.

But don’t run out to train your pup just yet. Training dogs to detect coronavirus is a significant undertaking that requires a research lab and lots of specialized equipment.

The Dubai airport is the first real-world example where dogs are being used to sniff out COVID-19. The dogs also do their work from afar, never coming into direct contact with potentially infected or fearful humans. Samples are taken from travelers’ armpits and placed in steel containers designed to allow a dog’s snout to fit inside without disturbing the sample.

Test results, which are said to have a 92 percent accuracy rate, are returned in less than a minute, Dubai officials told The National.

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