Dogs are always a welcome sight, but these days, canines able to sniff out COVID-19 are bound to be even more gladly received. In Finland, dogs are being deployed in Helsinki’s airport to sniff out COVID-19 in incoming travelers.
Since Tuesday, four dogs are currently working during a shift (while two are working, the other two are resting), and 10 dogs are being trained for the job.
Passengers are asked to swipe their skin with a wipe, which is then given to a dog in a separate booth with several other samples. The dogs have been trained to detect the presence of COVID-19 within 10 seconds. It indicates a COVID-19 detection by barking, laying down, or scratching its paw in front of the positive sample. Travelers with positive results from the dog detection will undergo a PCR nasal swab test.
According to a press release, dogs can detect the virus much more easily than PCR tests as they need a smaller sample from the person being tested. The COVID-19 detecting dogs are also almost 100 percent accurate, they can detect the virus before symptoms even start, and are much cheaper than medical tests.
Anna Hielm-Bjorkman, a professor at the University of Helsinki, said, “It’s a very promising method. Dogs are very good at sniffing. If it works, it will be a good [coronavirus] screening method at many other places.” She suggested sports venues, cultural events, and nursing homes as other potential venues where COVID-sniffing dogs may prove useful.
Finland isn’t the only country to employ such a strategy. The United Arab Emirates is also experimenting with the program, and countries like Australia, France, Germany, and the United States are currently considering the use of dogs as COVID-19 detectors.