Medical expert describes using dogs to track respiratory illnesses, not COVID-19

Dogs can find persons with respiratory illnesses but not COVID-19.
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Medical Chief of Staff at the Joseph Nathaniel France (JNF) General Hospital, Dr. Cameron Wilkinson.

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts — Dogs can be useful in tracking people with respiratory illnesses but that they cannot locate someone who is positive with the COVID-19 virus, according to Medical Chief of Staff at the Joseph Nathaniel France (JNF) General Hospital, Dr. Cameron Wilkinson.

“When someone has a respiratory infection, they produce secretions, and animals can be trained to sniff them out,” said Dr. Wilkinson. “There was a study done during which eight dogs sniffed persons who were positive for COVID and had respiratory illnesses to see whether they were able to identify these secretions.

“They found that they were able to identify persons infected with respiratory symptoms with a very high degree of sensitivity,” he said. “Based on that, they were able to train dogs to sniff out these secretions.”

“The dogs cannot detect someone carrying the virus who is asymptomatic,” explained Dr. Wilkinson. “The dog does not smell the virus, but instead chemicals produced when someone has a respiratory infection. There are some limitations.

“When persons hear about the sniffing, they assume that you can put the dog at the airport and if someone is positive for COVID-19, they can sniff that person out,” concluded Dr. Wilkinson. “However, he said this cannot be further from the truth.”

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