KAMPONG CHHNANG, Cambodia – Cambodian anti-mine authorities are training dogs to sniff out Covid-19, hoping the sharp-nosed canines normally used to detect underground explosives can keep the virus on a leash.
Cambodia has received praise for a rapid vaccination campaign, with the health ministry saying more than 98% of the adult population has received at least one dose.
Now they are embarking on a new strategy to spot cases of Covid.
Joining the fight will be 12 Belgian Malinois dogs that the Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) has trained to spot unsuspecting patients who may be carriers of the virus.
In the longer term, the center hopes to use the dogs at major events, including sports matches, General Manager Heng Ratana told AFP. “Dogs are more efficient than other tools,” he said.
The University of Health Sciences provided samples of volatile organic compounds – organic chemicals that emit odors – from Covid-19 patients to the demining agency’s facilities in Kampong Chhnang province. The dogs, bred in Cambodia, have so far proven to be very good boys. “After two and a half months, our dogs are at an early stage of success (so) they could smell the smell of Covid-19,” dog trainer Khom Sokly told AFP.
Four are now able to detect Covid-19 placed in a one-meter tube in less than a minute, he said, while the other eight train to extirpate odors in an open space “to any place “.
“In the future, I hope dogs can participate in the prevention or reduction of Covid-19 because they are fast,” Khom Sokly said.
CMAC staff said aspiring virus hunters still have a few months in their training program. Nearly three decades of civil war and American bombing from the 1960s onwards made Cambodia one of the most bombed and mined countries in the world.
The kingdom has pledged to eliminate all mines and unexploded ordnance by 2025, with several organizations working with veteran deminers, sniffer dogs and even rats to achieve the goal.
Other countries deploying dogs in the fight against Covid are Ecuador and Italy, where there is a program in a hospital in Rome to train dogs to detect the virus in human sweat. Cambodia largely avoided a mass outbreak during last year’s pandemic, but cases rose from 20,000 in May to a total of 110,000 cases in late September and more than 2,200 deaths.
SUBSCRIBE TO THE DAILY NEWSLETTER
CLICK HERE TO JOIN