Helsinki, Finland has utilized COVID-19 sniffing dogs to detect the virus in travellers to astounding success. Why aren’t we using them… everywhere?
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COVID-19 Sniffing Dogs
Helsinki has been deploying dogs that can detect infected COVID-19 passengers in their international airport. Detection is nearly 100% perfect as Matthew pointed out, takes 10 seconds to complete the test, and is about as non-invasive as it gets. Instead of the current PCR test which can be difficult (and sometimes uncomfortable) nasal extraction, a wipe of the skin cells placed into a jar is sufficient.
The dogs were rotating on a schedule with four performing the tests and could detect infection even before the person had shown symptoms or knew they were ill.
Dogs Are Used Almost Everywhere by Airports
From drugs to money to illegal food, dogs are used at airports extensively to detect in a passive modality. Canines are walked through baggage claim to locate any improper items that may have slipped a traveller’s mind. The facilities, training and co-ordination are already in place. Re-training (or training new dogs) could involve less cost, time, and accommodation than United’s new pre-flight rapid test model.
Why Aren’t We Using Them?
The question doesn’t seem to be whether it works, but rather why we aren’t rapidly expanding this practice worldwide?
There appears to be a better solution and while we trust the dogs to sniff out stacks of illegal bills or drugs hiding in suitcases, COVID-19 tests might be a step that airports or airlines aren’t willing to take. It could be due to the litigious nature of the US, it could be down to lack of proven studies.
But to the last point, if it is down to lack of extensive study periods and evaluation, everything is new with this (hence: novel coronavirus) and we might as well begin exploring all possible avenues as opposed to waiting for peer studies. The same folks that suggest we wait for proper research tend to be the same that are also discussing the immediate need and great severity. We won’t get to a solution unless we start pursuing these things.
I’d also suspect that some destinations dependent on tourism may want to employ the method to bring those who do not want to submit to a PCR test but would visit. As with the Dominican Republic and their random test approach on arrival, those who are found to have the illness would be subject to quarantine and covering their own medical costs.
Canine detection seems like a much smarter way to go about re-opening. It allows for the free movement of most while ensuring that those who are sick are removed from the general population until they get better. The costs on a per passenger basis are far lower, faster, and more accurate. If I was the Governor of Hawai’i, I’d be on the phone with Helsinki right away.
What do you think? Should more airports use canine detection for COVID-19? Do you trust the model or remain suspicious?