April 26, 2021
A new four-legged, wet-nosed addition greets people at Doctors Hospital of Sarasota. “Buffy” is a 2-year-old, sweet-tempered, yellow Labrador retriever and a highly trained scent detection dog from Southeastern Guide Dogs. Buffy meets visitors as they enter the hospital and if she detects COVID-19, the visitor is asked to get additional testing. Testing can be done free of charge at the hospital or if visitors prefer, another location.
Trainers at Southeastern Guide Dogs placed “Buffy” in a scent detection study nine months ago. Using deactivated samples from COVID-19 patients at Doctors Hospital of Sarasota, Buffy was trained to detect changes in a person’s immune system. Labrador retrievers have an estimated 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses, compared to about six million in humans. The dogs can detect our body fighting the virus. During training, the dogs are approximately 95% effective at detecting COVID-19 in a person. If Buffy detects COVID-19 she simply lays down at the visitor's feet and waits for a treat.
Visitors entering the hospital will still be screened by a hospital caregiver, have their temperature taken and be required to wear a mask. Buffy is being used as an extra resource, although a very furry one, to help keep the community safe. Hospital CEO, Robert Meade, adopted Buffy and she lives with the Meade family when she is not at the hospital.