Switzerland set to deploy coronavirus-detecting sniffer dogs

The Local Switzerland
The Local Switzerland - [email protected] • 1 Mar, 2021 Updated Mon 1 Mar 2021 11:33 CEST
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MIAMI, FLORIDA - JANUARY 27: Kelley Hall works with One-Betta, a COVID-19 sniffing Dutch Shepard, on the Florida International University campus on January 27, 2021 in Miami, Florida. One-Betta is one of four dogs who were trained by Florida International University's International Forensic Research Institute. The school plans on using the dogs to detect COVID-19 on campus as well as at the Florida State Capitol. The dogs, who will work on campus during the spring semester to try to control the spread of coronavirus at the school, have been trained to detect coronavirus odors first in a controlled lab environment and then in larger spaces such as class rooms auditoriums, computer labs and libraries. Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by JOE RAEDLE / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

They won’t replace mass testing, but coronavirus-sniffing canines will soon be deployed in Switzerland to catch Covid infections.

The Geneva University Hospital (HUG) is training three dogs to detect the smell of people infected with coronavirus.

The four-legged sniffers, provided by the Swiss army and the UN Security Service, will be very effective — HUG speaks of a 90 percent accuracy rate — in detecting contaminations.

The three dogs, who are already used as drugs or explosives sniffers, will be deployed "everywhere where a source of infection is suspected - in schools, companies, at major events such as conferences or sporting events," according to the HUG.

In the case of Covid-19, the dogs are trained to recognise infected human cells.

"A virus infection affects the smell, which differs depending on the pathogen”, according to Stefan Brotschi, who trains dogs for the Swiss army.

Training consists of teaching canines to recognise the specific coronavirus-related odour from positive samples, while giving the dog food and toys to encourage learning.

"Dogs automatically associate a reward with the smell”, Brotschi said.

Sniffer dogs could also be used at Swiss airports and train stations in the future.

EXPLAINED: How does Switzerland’s mass testing scheme work? 

 

 

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