Switzerland set to deploy coronavirus-detecting sniffer dogs

Switzerland set to deploy coronavirus-detecting sniffer dogs
A dog being trained to detect Covid. 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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