MIAMI (CBSMiami) – If you've yet to encounter a COVID-sniffing dog, one could cross your path soon. They're quickly becoming an important team member in efforts to contain the virus.
When the Miami Heat wanted fans back in the stands, the organization had Michael Larkin from K9 Protection Group deploy four dogs to screen fans entering the arena.
"The Miami heat have really led the charge on this, so they deserve a lot of credit," he said.
Larkin has roughly 100 dogs in training to sniff out COVID. He has major corporations, theme parks, cruise lines and professional sports teams inquiring about the instant sniff test.
In fact, ahead of spring training, which starts next week, the Miami Marlins reached out to the Miami Heat asking about Larkin's COVID-detecting dogs.
In a news conference Monday, CEO Derek Jeter said the Marlins have implemented security protocols to make fans comfortable attending games. That said, he added, "No we haven't gone down the dog path yet."
So how does Fido have the ability to recognize COVID? It's all in the training and the biological makeup of the dog.
For every scent receptor a human has, a dog has 50. That means a dog has scent receptors 100,000 thousand times more acute than ours.
On top of that, COVID apparently has a distinct odor.
Baptist Health helped in FIU's research, collecting items from COVID patients and baptist members who treated them
"We included gowns, masks or other items that were worn by the individual or one of our members. Then properly contain them in a bag that was later collected and sent to FIU for processing," explained Luis Callado of Baptist Health.
FIU's Department of International Forensic Research Institute trains dogs to sniff out COVID. They did it to send dogs throughout the campus to find hot spots of COVID and in obscure areas. The school uses four dogs.
"The dogs will be deployed across the campus in various areas, especially in high traffic areas, say the Sachs building, the library, GC," said Dr. DeEtta Mills. "Some of the areas it's going to be really hard to stay ahead of some of the cleaning, because there are so many people."
A rapid COVID test takes 15 minutes for the results. A lab test takes a couple of days. But the keen sense of a dog is instantaneous.
FIU trains dogs as does Larkin, who said it's no different than training a bomb sniffing K9 or a dog that can alert an owner with diabetes that their blood sugar is too high.
"If you dropped two teaspoons of sugar into two Olympic-sized pools of water, the dog could still identify the sugar," he said.
These dogs can get a whiff of COVID on people, coronavirus particles on surfaces or in the air, alerting its handlers.
And these dogs are 90% accurate, which means they can save us from getting sick, or worse, save us from fatality.
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