Finland: Virus-sniffing dogs start work at Helsinki Airport

Finland: Virus-sniffing dogs start work at Helsinki Airport
Finland: Virus-sniffing dogs start work at Helsinki Airport

Dogs arrived at Finland’s Helsinki Airport on Tuesday for their first day of work checking travelers for Covid-19 as part of a new pilot program which—if it’s as successful as preliminary research suggests—could present a widely employable method of coronavirus detection.

Multiple studies have indicated that trained dogs are able to successfully discriminate between infected and non-infected human saliva or urine samples, with German researchers finding dogs could determine Covid-19 with 94% accuracy within a week of training.

The Helsinki Airport is now putting these findings to the test through a trial run with 16 canines who will deliver results within 10 seconds, Anna Hielm-Björkman, a researcher at the University of Helsinki who is gathering data on the trial, told The Washington Post.

Travelers who agree to the screening will swab their own necks to produce a sweat sample which will be passed to dogs through an opening in a wall in a process that should take less than one minute.

Those checked by the dogs will then be encouraged to take a standard test to verify the accuracy of the determination.

The dogs were trained by Wise Nose, a Finnish agency that specializes in smell detection, and per a report from The Independent, at least one dog was able to learn to identify the smell in just seven minutes.

Hielm-Björkman pointed out that, according to preliminary tests, the dogs may be more effective at detecting Covid-19 than polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and antibody tests, and are able to detect when a person will become PCR positive a week before the test can.

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