Hawaii (KITV) — Man’s best friend could be another tool in the fight against COVID-19 in Hawaii. Right now there’s four dogs in the state that can detect COVID-19, not in humans yet but in human samples like sweat-swabs. They’re being trained by Maui based non-profit Assistance Dogs of Hawaii and collectively, they can screen up to 1,200 samples per day. There’s hope one day, four-legged friends put their senses to work at airports, schools and hospitals.
Tess, a three-year-old Labrador Retriever started her new job at Queen’s Medical Center two weeks ago. When patients receive a mandatory COVID-19 test before surgeries or procedures. they’re asked for samples for Tess to sniff.
“We just take a piece of cotton and wipe someone’s neck and get the sample,” Maureen Maurer, executive director, Assistance Dogs of Hawaii, said. “So far, she’s been a 100%.”
“This offers an opportunity for a non-invasive testing, adding a layer of security without doing something intrusive and invasive,” Dr. Whitney Limm, chief physician executive, Queen’s Health Systems, said.
This is part of a research project started by Assistance Dogs of Hawaii back in December. How training works is there’s scent detection boxes and when it smells like COVID-19, Tess would scratch the sample.
“We start out by pairing the target scent with just a piece of dog food and when they find it, we use a clicker to mark the correct behavior and give them the treat. Then we quickly take away the treat in the box and we just have the scent of COVID,” Maurer said.
Maurer says she has no concern the dogs contracting COVID-19 because it’s not transmissible by sweat.
To keep the project alive, Assistance Dogs of Hawaii is now filing for grant money to continue its research. They’re also looking for volunteers who themselves recently tested positive COVID-19. If you’re interested, call 808-298-0167 for more information.
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