Beagles sniff out COVID cases in the crowd


TAMPA, Florida – If a dog is a man’s best friend, Heather Junqueira has 57 besties in her yard.

What you need to know

  • Beagles learn to sniff out COVID at Bioscent
  • The dogs learn from a control scent
  • So far, they can sniff out a positive patient with 98 percent accuracy
  • Trained dogs are sent to airports, sporting events, and even concerts across the country

“They love people and they love attention,” said Junquiera, founder of Bioscent.

They are beagles to be precise. All ages, all adorable. All training to save lives.

“So if you are starting out with a dog from scratch, when he’s a puppy and he’s never worked with odor detection. Then you look at them for about six months until they get a strong odor, ”Junquiera said.

Junquiera founded Bioscent, a company that works with dogs to sniff out diseases.

So we go in to meet some of the trainees starting with the three month old Solo.

Control fragrances are used to help the puppies learn the process.

Kip Schultz, Manager of the FIU Detection Canine Program, explains that the dog recognizes this control odor in a canister and receives a treat.

“So we use that to train the animal on this substance first and then we introduce any other scent that we want to add to the animal after the calibration is learned,” said Schultz.

Lately the smell was COVID-19.

Trainers say the beagles who come into contact with the virus are in no danger at all, and when fully trained they can sniff a positive patient with 98 percent accuracy.

This is more accurate than a COVID-19 PCR test.

“So I’m ready to give a sample from a COVID-19 patient, so it’s a face mask that the person was wearing and I’ll lay out a sample so Noel can find it,” Junquiera said while putting on gloves and holds up a mask.

Beagle Noel is a pro at this – she’s been around for a while.

And she inevitably sits, so she sniffed the mask and discovered a positive case.

“They can give you a hint like, ‘Ok this dog detects Covid in this person, they need to be tested, we need to monitor them,'” Junquiera said.

Trained dogs like Noel are sent to airports, sporting events, and sometimes even Justin Bieber performances across the country – Noel has noted five positive cases there.

“That’s the goal, you know, to get them out of there and work and help people get back to normal lives,” Junquiera said.

And after their hard work, the dogs also return to their normal lives – paid for with treats and cuddles and playtime for a good job.

Since this type of service dog is new, the FIU is working to put together guidelines for certification to ensure dogs are qualified before hiring.


About Clayton Arredondo

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