Dubai Airport Is Now Using Dogs To Sniff Out COVID-19

It’s relatively common knowledge that animals are in tune with aspects of nature that seem undetectable by us humans. This might range from erratic behavior before an earthquake to hearing high-pitched sounds. At the airport, dogs and their sensitive noses have been mainly deployed to sniff out explosives and drugs. However, the Dubai Police K9 unit is now being used to sniff out COVID-19.

Airport security dog
It’s been reported that dogs in this particular unit can detect COVID-19 with an overall 91% accuracy. Photo: Getty Images

Hundreds of tests already conducted

According to Gulf News, in the last three weeks, the K9 unit of the Dubai Police force has already conducted 400 tests at Dubai Airport. According to an official with the police unit, the results so far have been impressive.

According to Major Salah Khalifa Al Mazrouei, the director of Dubai Police Security Inspection K9 Unit, samples are taken in collaboration with partners from Dubai Health Authority from travelers. The dogs sniff these samples to detect the virus. Then, if the sample turns out positive, the dog will sit in front of it. Apparently, the dogs can detect possible infection within seconds while the entire process overall only takes a few minutes.

The UAE is the first in the world to use K9 police dogs. We are in direct contact with experts in UK and France to train our dogs in detecting the virus,” -Major Salah Khalifa Al Mazrouei, Director of Dubai Police Security Inspection K9 Unit

The video below, prepared by state-run Emirates News Agency, provides an excellent visual of the detection process:

As the video demonstrates, these dogs never come in direct contact with travelers. Rather, the dogs are exposed to passenger samples in an isolated room.

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But how well does it work? Is it accurate?

According to The Conversation, dogs at France’s National Veterinary School of Alfort have been training to sniff out traces of the novel coronavirus since March. The most incredible part of this story is that, when introduced to a line of sweat samples, most dogs were able to detect a positive one out of a series of negative ones with 100% accuracy.

As for the results in Dubai, officials report the detection of presumed COVID-19 cases achieved approximately 91% in overall accuracy. This is an accomplishment that is still incredibly impressive.

Of course, the big question is: “Is 91% overall accuracy good enough?”

Dubai Airports, Dubai International Airport, Dubai World Central
Dubai Airport and the UAE isn’t alone on this. Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and Belgium also have canine training programs. This may roll out in Australia soon as well. Photo: Dubai Airports

With many aspects of life, 90% or more is almost as good as 100%. However, as many may already know, all it takes is one infected person in a crowded space to undo weeks of quarantine and lockdown.

As a reference, according to the website Healthline, “the most common tests used to diagnose an infection with the novel coronavirus are almost 100 % effective if administered correctly.” 

Thus, these detector dogs will be best used in conjunction with a continued wearing of masks and social distancing. If the reports are true, then these dogs will be a massive help in the fight against the coronavirus and would make travel much safer.

What do you think of dogs being used to sniff out COVID-19? How do you feel about a 91% accuracy rate? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.