Miami Heat deploying COVID-19 sniffing dogs to screen fans

Istock Sniffer Dogs 01262021

(MIAMI) — The Miami Heat’s efforts to get fans back to AmericanAirlines Arena is going to the dogs. Literally. 

As a new part of the team’s enhanced COVID-19 safety policies, which include social distancing, new rules prohibiting food sales, and of course, mandatory masks for all fans, the Heat is adding COVID-19-sniffing dogs to its fan screening procedures. 

While canines’ screening abilities have yet to be peer reviewed within the scientific community, dog trainers and disease researchers insist pooches can find infected people.  For example, tests run at airports in the United Arab Emirates, Finland and Lebanon have found that the dogs can detect COVID-19 infected people through the smell of their sweat days before symptoms start, according to an article in Nature

The publication noted that Riad Sarkis, a surgeon and researcher at Saint Joseph University in Beirut, led a multinational project to train such dogs and test their COVID-19 smelling accuracy against PCR tests. Two of the best-performing dogs were sent to an airport in Lebanon for a trial run, sniffing 1,680 passengers.  They found 158 COVID-19 positive passengers, whose infection was then confirmed with the standard medical test.

“The animals correctly identified negative results with 100% accuracy, and correctly detected 92% of positive cases, according to unpublished results,” the article states. 

The Miami Heat certainly hasn’t sold out their venue since the season began, but that’s not for lack of fan enthusiasm. Crowds are being limited to 2,000, about a tenth of the arena’s capacity, for the sake of social distancing.

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