26 September 2023

Detector dogs in hospital to keep people safe

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A team of detector dogs has been deployed at Lyell McEwin Hospital in Adelaide’s northern suburbs to screen for COVID-19 as a way of helping to keep patients safe.

Clinical Services Director at SA Pathology, Dr Sophia Otto said the pilot study would see the dogs, along with their SA Pathology handlers, stationed at the Emergency Department, where they would rely on their keen sense of smell to identify COVID-positive visitors as they entered the hospital.

Dr Otto said the four Labradors trained in the program would be stationed at the hospital for six weeks, with two dogs on site at a time and each dog having the capacity to inspect up to 100 people an hour.

“During triage at the Emergency Department, patients and visitors will be offered the opportunity to be screened by dogs as part of the existing COVID-19 testing process,” she said.

Dr Otto said the study was a collaboration between SA Pathology, the University of Adelaide’s School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences and Northern Adelaide Local Health Network.

Accurate early detection is where the true benefit lies in this study, as people can be infectious before showing any symptoms of COVID-19 and can unwittingly spread the virus,” she said.

“The dogs have a remarkable ability to detect the scent of viral infection before an individual develops symptoms or spreads the virus.”

Emergency Physician and Medical Director of Critical Care at Lyell McEwin Hospital, Dr Penny Conor said detector dogs were an innovative approach to strengthening infection control measures in health care settings.

“This is an exciting development in COVID-19 testing and we are pleased to be part of this joint project to further research in the area of dogs for infection control,” Dr Conor said.

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