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Study: Dogs can sniff out COVID-19 with 94% success rate

That skill could offer real protection in the fight to detect COVID-19 and stop its spread.

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. — One of the symptoms of COVID-19 is losing your sense of smell. However, some encouraging new research shows that the illness itself can be sniffed out by man’s best friend.

"This is great! This is what we would want to see," Dr. Carlene Taylor said. She is a therapy animal instructor at the University of North Florida. She is closely following the news out of Germany, which reports dogs had a 94 percent success rate in sniffing out the coronavirus.

While there are various similar studies around the world, "that’s the best news we’ve seen so far," Taylor said.

The study involved 1,000 samples of mucus from COVID-19 patients. And it involved dogs who are already trained to smell odors.

"It said it took them about a week to ten days in training the dogs to get them to identify the COVID-19 scent," Taylor explained.

"I started this March training my dogs to find the COVID-19 virus," Jeff Minder of Top Tier K-9 in Madison, Florida said. He is part of a different group, working with dogs to identify the virus.

Minder said his dogs can also identify the virus in saliva, and that has even seen success with people in the community.

"We have a lot of patients coming here, they’re scared," Minder noted. "They go get a test, but the hospital says it’s will be eight days until 'we notify you.' So they swing by here. In a minute, I can tell them: ‘Nope. You don’t’ or 'Yep, you have it.’  And the hospital tests will confirm every time, what my dogs tell the patient."

He said his dogs’ overall success rate is 96 percent. 

Taylor said, for the most part, dogs cannot contract COVID-19. 

"We have not seen animals becoming sick with COVID-19," Taylor said.

The dogs are giving real-time results, and that’s faster than current tests, which can take days to get results.

If dogs get the okay to move forward as official screeners of the virus, "they could identify people with COVID-19 who are asymptomatic," Taylor noted.

More testing needs to be done before dogs are deployed to sniff out COVID-19 in public places, but the possibilities are tail-wagging.

Minder said it could be helpful for possible future pandemics: "We could be at major airport hubs, at major shipping hubs."

"The benefits for our society would be great, if we can make schools safer, and travel safer," Taylor said.

Safer possibly because of a dog’s super sniffer.

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