Covid Sniffing Dogs At Work At Miami Wine and Food Festival

Man's best friend helps us learn to live in our new normal

Man’s best friend is hard at work at Miami’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival. Covid sniffing dogs will help 20,000 visits stay safe during the four-day event. Our furry friends are becoming a part of the safety strategy allowing large events to take place safely.

The Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine and Food Festival is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Our divided world comes together united by delicious food and spirits. Guests can eat, drink and raise money for Florida International University Chaplin School of Hospitality.

Delicious tacos from Food Network Wine and Food FestivalPhoto: CC Wine and Food Festival Instagram

Having dogs sniff for Covid is not as crazy as it sounds. The Miami Heat tested out the use of coronavirus-sniffing dogs to help screen fans for entry to basketball games. Now, the well-trained dogs are helping thousands of people enjoy all the South Beach Wine and Food Festival has to offer.

The South Beach Wine & Food Festival is working hard to make the 20th anniversary special in Miami. As guests arrive, the dogs weave and mingle through the lines with their handlers. The canine crew searches for the smell of Covid, which they detect on the skin.

When the dogs detect the Covid scent, they calmly sit down to notify the handler of a potential case. The handler then directs the guest to a conveniently located tent. The guest can undergo a rapid Covid test before returning to the festival.

Dogs are only one part of the Covid surveillance team. One thousand five hundred students from Florida International University are performing temperature checks, encouraging maks, and sanitizing the festival area.

The festival runs May 20-23 in Miami Beach. The organizers prepared the video to help guests to understand the safety protocols. All guests require proof of vaccination or a rapid test no more than 72 hours before the event. The event requires mask-wearing, and tables will be arranged more than six feet apart.

Canine Covid sniffers add another layer of protection as the world learns how to function with our new normal. The United Arab Emirates was the first airport to add airport sniffer dogs to detect COVID-19 on passengers. Travelers still underwent Covid PCR testing, but the addition of canine screening helped accurately detect infected travelers.

A small report in Nature showed the dogs’ detection of Covid-19 correlated with PCR testing with 92% accuracy. This level of accuracy means that dogs can accurately screen large groups of people for Covid-19 without the need for mass testing.

The super sniffing abilities of dogs are well-known. Hunters partner with man’s best friend in the search for wild game. Detection dogs are commonplace in airports and customs agencies to detect explosives and illegal drugs. Police train dogs to detect blood or search for victims and suspects. 

While the human nose has five million scent receptors, canine noses have 300 million. Sniffer dogs are trained to detect patterns of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). With Covid-19, researchers have not yet determined what exactly the dogs are smelling. The report in Nature suggests human viral illness creates a distinct pattern of VOCs recognizable to the dogs. 

Published data is scant, but several studies to validate the efficacy of canine screening are in progress. Dr. Riad Sarkis, a Lebanese surgeon at the French St Joseph University in Beirut, is studying the issue in conjunction with the National Veterinary School of Alfort. The preliminary data is encouraging but unpublished at this time. 

Dogs may not be the ultimate answer, but our furry friends add a layer of protection as we test out ways to enjoy life after the pandemic. This innovative step from the South Beach Wine & Food Festival is an excellent example of companies finding ways to get us back to the things we love.


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Dr Jeff Livingston
Dr Jeff Livingston
Jeff is Co-Founder of Medika Life. He is a Board Certified Obgyn and CEO of MacArthur Medical Center in Irving, Texas. He is a nationally recognized thought leader, speaker, writer, blogger, and practicing physician who is considered an expert in the use of social media to educate patients, using new and innovative technology to improve care outcomes and the patient experience.


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