Massachusetts Schools Use Dogs to Detect Covid-19

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A pair of specially trained dogs, 14 month old labs named Huntah and duke, began their training in May 2021 and now roam the halls of schools in the Freetown-Lakeville Regional School District.

The Bristol County Sheriff’s Office worked closely with Florida International University to train the dogs, said Jonathan Darling, the agency’s public information officer.

The two were trained the same way narcotic dogs were, Darling said. The trainers took a mask that had been worn by a person who tested positive, and after using UV light to kill the virus, the mask was cut into pieces and placed in a plastic bag, to help the scent break down. print on dogs.

Covid causes metabolic changes, which in turn produce a specific odor, according to FIU research, allowing dogs like Huntah and Duke to be another avenue to help stop the spread, Darling said.
Another study from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that dogs could detect Covid after six to eight weeks of training. In the preprint study, six dogs were able to accurately identify Covid 82 94% of the time.

While the first results look promising, it is probably too early to know whether Covid sniffer dogs could actually be used as a tool to fight the pandemic in the real world.

“This could be compromised by the density of individuals in crowded spaces and if well-ventilated outdoor spaces, where odors are quickly dispersed, compromise dogs’ ability to detect individuals with low levels of infection,” said Lawrence Young, virologist at Warwick. Medical School in the UK, said in a statement.

School superintendent Rick Medeiros first discovered Covid detection dogs after reading a press release from the Sheriff’s Office in August announcing Huntah and Duke’s training had ended, and decided to bring dogs in its five schools.

“Our number one priority is to keep our students and staff in school safe for in-person learning and we believe this was just one more mitigation strategy to help us achieve this goal.” , said Medeiros.

With a district of nearly 3,000 students and 400 staff, Medeiros said it was important that dogs didn’t disrupt the school day. But after bringing the dogs in, he said it had been great for the students and staff.

“We saw it as a win-win,” Medeiros said.

The dogs come to schools every week and work to find cases in empty classrooms, auditoriums, cafeterias and gymnasiums, Mederiros said. If the Covid is detected, the authorities inform the health nurse who relays the information to those affected.

When he came up with the idea of ​​bringing the dogs to school, he wanted to assure parents and community members that they weren’t going to line up all the kids and get the dogs up and down.

“They come while the students are at school, it’s really not disturbing or intimidating,” Medeiros said. “They weren’t drug sniffer dogs.”

Darling said the Fairhaven and Norton school districts have contacted the office to have their schools reviewed. Each district has five schools, which means the dogs would inspect 15 schools once a week, which is “perfectly doable,” Darling said.

This service would be free for the school.

For now, the two dogs are only dedicated to Covid, but Darling said their duties may change as needed. Other tasks could include searching for missing people, he said.

“They are officers like everyone else,” Darling said. “We want to keep people safe, that’s what law enforcement is all about.”

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