California Nursing Homes Using COVID-Sniffing Dogs to Prevent Infections

Although COVID-19 does not pose the same broad risks in San Bernardino County that it did in the early years of the pandemic, the virus does continue to pose a relatively serious risk to older adults in nursing homes. Even seniors who have been fully vaccinated and boosted are still at higher risk of developing serious symptoms from COVID-19, and nursing homes have a duty to ensure that infection-control measures are in place to prevent the spread of the virus if a resident does become infected. According to a recent story from KQED, some nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are using COVID-sniffing dogs to identify the virus in residents. Can dogs really sniff out COVID? And when can a nursing home be liable for injury or death caused by COVID in a nursing home, assisted-living facility, or another type of long-term care facility?

Learning More About COVID-Sniffing Dogs in California

Can dogs really sniff out COVID? And can this practice make nursing homes and assisted-living facilities safer for residents? According to the KQED story, using COVID-sniffing dogs can be quick and effective, in large part. Indeed, the piece says, “in less than a half hour, dogs can scan hundreds of patients at a nursing home by sniffing their shoes and ankles,” and “if they identify COVID, they will sit down next to the suspected resident.” Facilities are then using rapid antigen tests to “verify the results” provided by the dogs.

How does this work? As the KQED story explains, “the canines are sniffing for unique volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released in human breath or sweat when someone is positive for COVID.” Since “dogs have hundreds of millions more specialized odor-detecting neurons than humans,” dogs are able to “detect the equivalent of one drop of a liquid in 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools.” Dr. Carol Glase, a medical officer in California, says that COVID-sniffing dogs have an accuracy rating of approximately 95 percent, and experts believe that this number can improve. In addition, Glaser says that it may be possible for dogs to sniff out other infectious diseases at nursing homes in the future, such as influenza or norovirus. In some cases, when it comes to the dogs currently being used in California nursing homes, the canines are able to raise COVID alerts “a day or two earlier than a traditional test will register a positive.”

Infection Prevention and Nursing Home Negligence

Nursing homes in California and throughout the country have a duty to prevent infections in their facilities. To prevent infections, facilities must have an infection prevention program (or an IP program, as they are often called).

If a nursing home does not have an infection prevention program, it may be liable if a resident contracts a disease and becomes ill. Accordingly, if a nursing home resident becomes seriously ill from a COVID infection that could have been prevented with an effective infection prevention program, it may be possible to file a claim against the facility. According to the California Department of Public Health, infection prevention programs must include a range of information, including but not limited to the following:

  • Precautions to prevent transmission of various diseases;
  • Respiratory hygiene etiquette protocols for staff;
  • Cleaning and disinfection protocols;
  • Vaccination requirements for residents; and
  • Screening practices to identify communicable illnesses and prevent the spread of them to other residents.

Contact a San Bernardino Nursing Home Negligence Lawyer

If you have questions or concerns about an elderly loved one’s infection in a nursing home, you should seek advice from a San Bernardino County nursing home negligence attorney as soon as possible. Contact the Walton Law Firm for more information.

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Mental Health and Los Angeles County Nursing Home Abuse

Resident-to-Resident Abuse in San Bernardino County

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