(TMU) — There’s plenty of reason why dogs have historically been considered man’s best friend. For at least the past 15,000 years, dogs have served human societies in myriad ways. Whether by hunting pray, helping to herd sheep and cattle, or simply providing us with unconditional love, they have proved themselves to be indispensable companions.
In modern times, dogs have also provided crucial help sniffing out pests such as bedbugs, narcotics, trapped humans or broken gas mains after earthquakes, improvised explosive devices in war zones, and even ailments such as migraine headaches, malaria Parkinson’s disease, and cancer. After all, with some 200 to 300 million sense receptors in dogs’ noses—versus 5 million in human noses—our trusty canine comrades have olfactory abilities that can sense odors we have no ability to perceive.
And now, an ambitious project hopes to wield dogs’ uncanny sense of smell to train them to detect CoViD-19, the infectious disease caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-COV-2.
British charity Medical Detection Dogs has partnered with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and Durham University to begin efforts to train their elite sniffing dogs for the task. According to behavioral psychologist Dr. Claire Guest, CEO of Medical Detection Dogs, there is no reason to doubt that the canines are up to the task.
***CV-19 SUPER SIX***
Norman, Digby, Storm, Star, Jasper and Asher could be trained to detect if someone has #COVID19 and play a vital role in preventing further spread of the pandemic in future. @LSHTM@durham_unihttps://t.co/xuheY7OOz6 pic.twitter.com/vOdTuekdaW
— Medical Detection Dogs (@MedDetectDogs) April 18, 2020
Guest told CTV News:
“We already train dogs in the past… [there is] absolutely no reason why a dog can’t detect the virus.”
And it’s not just a matter of confidence—it’s also an approach that is rooted in the rigorous science of over a dozen peer-reviewed papers that Medical Detection Dogs has produced in the course of training dogs to detect serious illnesses.
Head of the disease control department at LSHTM Prof. James Logan explained:
“Our previous work demonstrated that dogs can detect odors from humans with a malaria infection with extremely high accuracy – above the World Health Organization standards for a diagnostic.”
After six weeks of intensive training we could see a brigade of dogs who are capable of providing a speedy and non-invasive diagnosis at the tail end of the pandemic. The dogs would undergo some of the same training they received to detect bacterial infections, prostate cancer, and Parkinson’s—mainly through sniffing samples, indicating when they found it, and being able to detect the subtle changes in skin temperature indicating a fever, according to a statement from the group.
Logan cautioned that it still remains early for detecting any specific odor belonging to CoViD-19. However, because other respiratory diseases cause body odor changes, it is quite likely that CoViD-19 does as well, which means that dogs would definitely be able to detect it. Such a new diagnostic tool has the potential to provide a revolutionary new method to help curb the pandemic.
On the Medical Detection Dogs website, Guest wrote:
“The aim is that dogs will be able to screen anyone, including those who are asymptomatic and tell us whether they need to be tested. This would be fast, effective and non-invasive and make sure the limited NHS testing resources are only used where they are really needed.
We know that other respiratory diseases like COVID-19, change our body odor so there is a very high chance that dogs will be able to detect it. This new diagnostic tool could revolutionize our response to COVID-19 in the short term, but particularly in the months to come, and could be profoundly impactful.”
Professor Steve Lindsay at Durham University says:
“If the research is successful, we could use COVID-19 detection dogs at airports at the end of the epidemic to rapidly identify people carrying the virus. This would help prevent the re-emergence of the disease after we have brought the present epidemic under control.”
Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida
A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.
In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.
“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.
Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.
Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.
Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.
Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.
However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.
Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son
A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.
The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.
The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.
“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.
“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.
The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.
The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.
“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.
The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.
The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.
Blue Whales Return to Spain’s Coast After Disappearing for 40 Years
Blue whales have been returning to the Atlantic coast of Spain after an absence of over 40 years in the region, when whaling industries drove the species to the brink of extinction.
Blue whales, which are the world’s largest mammals, had long disappeared from the region until the recent sightings.
The first was spotted off the coast of Galicia near Ons Island by marine biologist Bruno Díaz, who heads the Bottlenose Dolphin Research.
Another one of the majestic creatures was spotted the following year in 2018 and yet another in 2019. In 2020, two whales again made their return to the area.
It remains unclear as of yet as to why the creatures have returned to the area, but controls on local whaling industries are believed to play a role.
“I believe the moratorium on whaling has been a key factor,” Díaz remarked, according to the Guardian. “In the 1970s, just before the ban was introduced, an entire generation of blue whales disappeared. Now, more than 40 years later, we’re seeing the return of the descendants of the few that survived.”
Whaling had been a traditional industry in Galicia for hundreds of years before Spain finally acted to ban whaling in 1986, long after the blue whale’s presence in the region had faded away.
Some fear that the return of the massive sea mammals is a sign of global warming.
“I’m pessimistic because there’s a high possibility that climate change is having a major impact on the blue whale’s habitat,” said marine biologist Alfredo López in comments to La Voz de Galicia.
“Firstly, because they never venture south of the equator, and if global warming pushes this line north, their habitat will be reduced,” he continued “And secondly, if it means the food they normally eat is disappearing, then what we’re seeing is dramatic and not something to celebrate.”
Díaz said that while the data certainly supports this theory, it is too early to determine climate as the precise cause.
“It is true that the data we have points to this trend [climate change] but it is not enough yet,” he told Público news.
Another possibility is that the ancestral memory of the old creatures or even a longing for their home may offer an explanation, according to Díaz.
“In recent years it’s been discovered that the blue whale’s migration is driven by memory, not by environmental conditions,” he said. “This year there hasn’t been a notable increase in plankton, but here they are. Experiences are retained in the collective memory and drive the species to return.”
In recent years, researchers have found that migratory patterns are also driven by the cultural knowledge existing in many groups of species.
Researchers believe this type of folk memory, or cultural knowledge, exists in many species and is key to their survival.
A typical blue whale is 20-24 metres long and weighs 120 tonnes – equivalent to 16 elephants – but specimens of up to 30 metres and 170 tonnes have been found.