K9 police dogs may soon sniff out Covid-19 cases in UAE

The move to use canines to sniff out Covid-19 cases comes after the successful completion of practical experiments and scientific studies

  
A researcher interacts with Kunxun, a dog cloned from a police dog, in Beijing, China February 22, 2019. Picture taken February 22, 2019. Image for illustrative purposes.

A researcher interacts with Kunxun, a dog cloned from a police dog, in Beijing, China February 22, 2019. Picture taken February 22, 2019. Image for illustrative purposes.

REUTERS/ China Daily CDIC

Sniffer dogs are a common sight in sensitive places where they help authorities in detection work. But now, imagine waiting in a queue at a venue and being encountered by a canine who reaches out to you and takes a whiff of your armpits. This scenario may soon become a reality if specially trained K9 police dogs are employed to sniff out Covid-19 positive cases from the crowd.

The UAE Ministry of Interior has completed trials on K9 police dogs who may now be employed to help them curb the spread of Covid-19. The move to use canines to sniff out Covid-19 cases comes after the successful completion of practical experiments and scientific studies.

Figures from the experiments indicate that the canines would be able to quickly detect infected cases, help protect key sites, deal with huge crowds and secure large events, airports, and other places.

Samples from the armpits of presumed Covid-19 cases were used in the experiments and the dogs were made to sniff out cases from the samples without coming into contact with the persons. The results were quick and declared on the spot.

The UAE has also completed the field experimentation stage and it was done in cooperation with the UAE Police General Commanders, the Ministry of Health and Community Development, Federal Customs Authority, Departments of Customs in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Dubai Health Authorities, and the Ministry of Interior. Data and studies from the stage showed an overall accuracy of approximately 92 per cent in the detection of presumed Covid-19 cases.

Experiments were also conducted at field hospitals on volunteers. They were based on two methods - the first one was the direct method and involved the dog's routine detection work, while the second on was indirect in which the dog was made to sniff out a sample odour of a presumed case.

The Ministry of Interior and its partners decided to use dogs given their proven capability in dealing with other contagious diseases, such as tuberculosis and malaria. The ministry also held several workshops and cooperated with other countries and experts on theoretical studies and discussions on the use of dogs in detecting Covid-19 cases.

Trained detection dogs are known for their extraordinary capabilities and skills, especially their strong sense of smell. That is the reason canines are used by the police to help them secure malls, events, airports and other vital facilities.

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