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Covid-sniffing dogs trialled at German test concert

The efficacy of coronavirus detection dogs was trialled last Sunday (19 September) at a test show in Hanover.

The German trial was led by the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover (TiHo), which recently published a study that found Coronavirus detection dogs could detect the presence of Covid-19 in people with 94% accuracy, even if they are asymptomatic.

The Hanover study took place at an open-air concert by Fury in the Slaughterhouse at the Gilde Parkbühne with 500 attendees.

As part of the trial, attendees were required to take a PCR test and a rapid antigen test, and provide two arm sweat samples, which were sniffed by several dogs to detect the presence of Covid-19.

“In order to check that the dogs in the on-site entrance situation are able to recognise infected people, we smuggled in inactivated positive samples,” explains Professor Dr Holger Volk from TiHo.

“The result: the dogs have displayed all inactivated positive samples!”

“For this, there were helpers in the admission line who had the samples with them and handed them in. The result: the dogs have displayed all inactivated positive samples! So they did an excellent job,” says Volk says of the interim results, which will be corroborated with results from the PCR tests.

The Fury in the Slaughterhouse concert was the first of four trials to examine whether trained corona detection dogs are suitable for use in everyday situations.

The trials, organised in conjunction with Hannover Concerts, ProEvent Hannover and AWiAS Aviation Services GmbH, are funded by a €1.3 million grant from the Lower Saxony Ministry for Science and Culture.

Sniffer dogs were first used to detect infection in passengers in a trial at Dubai airport and since deployed in airports in Helsinki and Santiago, Chile, as well as more recently by the Miami Heat basketball team in Florida.

 


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Covid-sniffing dogs ‘detect virus 94% of the time’

Coronavirus detection dogs of the type being deployed in sports and entertainment venues could detect the presence of Covid-19 in people with 94% accuracy, even if they are asymptomatic, a German study has found.

Filou, a three-year-old Belgian shepherd, and Joe Cocker, an ingeniously named cocker spaniel, were trained by researchers at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Hanover to sniff out an odour that emanates from the cells of people infected with the virus.

First used to detect infection in passengers in a trial at Dubai airport, sniffer dogs have also been deployed in airports in Helsinki and Santiago, Chile, as well as more recently by the Miami Heat basketball team in Florida.

Covid dogs sniff out virus in Helsinki

Holger Volk, head of the clinic which trained the dogs, said the pair could accurately detect Covid-19 94% of the time in more than 1,000 samples.

“So dogs can really sniff out people with infections and without infections, as well as asymptomatic and symptomatic Covid patients,” says Volk, reports Deutsche Welle.

Stephan Weil, premier of the state of Lower Saxony, welcomed the results of the study and said the next step should be test events in the real world. “We now need tests in selected events,” says Weil.

“Dogs can really sniff out … asymptomatic and symptomatic Covid patients”

Miami Heat’s executive vice-president for business strategy, Matthew Jafarian, says the team, based at the 21,000-capacity AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, ran a smaller trial with the dogs before making the decision to welcome fans back to the arena.

“We looked at traditional diagnostic tests, like rapid antigen and PCR tests. And we thought through operationally how we could administer that to hundreds and thousands of people coming into the building,” he says.

Heat fans who are not comfortable being screened by dogs have the option to take a more traditional testing option, which could take up to 45 minutes, Jafarian adds.

In the UK, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine is undertaking a similar study to investigate whether dogs can be trained reliably detect the “unique odours” associated with Covid-19 infection.

 


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

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Sniffer dogs criticised as false positives revealed

The use of sniffer dogs at music festivals has come into question again in New South Wales, after data released by police revealed the huge extent of false positives made by the animals leading to strip and general searches.

Figures were made public after Green party politician David Shoebridge questioned the effectiveness of sniffer dog programs. In May this year, he was contacted by constituents who had been turned away from Midnight Mafia, a music festival in Sydney, after wrongly being singled out by dogs. Despite finding no drugs on the festivalgoers, they were barred from the event.

A similar policy was adopted for last month’s Above & Beyond, another Sydney-based festival. NSW police warned prospective festivalgoers that they would be turned away if a sniffer dog made any indication, regardless of if drugs were actually found or not.

The release of the new information has prompted outrage from politicians and media – outrage made even worse by the New South Wales Police Department’s (NSWPD) lack of information regarding the cost of sniffer dog programmes for the taxpayer.

“These aggressive searches are all about PR, about the police being seen to do something on the failing war on drugs.”

Mr Shoebridge called the failed searches an abuse of rights. “Any other government program that gets it wrong almost two-thirds of the time would be immediately halted,” he comments.

“These aggressive searches are all about PR, about the police being seen to do something on the failing war on drugs.”

According to the numbers for strip searches last year, sniffer dogs made 1,124 indications to NSW police. Of these, just 406 successfully identified a person carrying drugs – a 64% failure rate. General searches proved just as unsuccessful. 2017 saw 3,954 out of 10,224 general searches indicated by dogs turn up positive results – a 61% failure rate.

Numbers look no better for the start of 2018, either. The current failure rate for strip searches stands at 56% and at 63% for general searches in the first six months of the year.

Backed by Shoebridge and the Green party in NSW, the Sniff Off campaign group has opposed the police use of sniffer dogs since 2002. It labels the program as “excellent at violating civil liberties,” particularly those of “young people, Aboriginal communities and the poor.” Responding to the new figures on their Facebook page, the group called on Gladys Berejiklian, the current NSW premier and leader of the Liberal Party, to “get rid of the drug dog program for good.”

 


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