Helsinki Airport will use dogs to sniff out COVID-19 after encouraging trials. If the pilot program is successful, we may see such a testing regime expand far beyond Finland and replace the need for more conventional testing.
Helsinki Airports Deploys COVID-19 Dogs
Preliminary testing at the Veterinary Faculty of the University of Helsinki indicated dogs can identify COVID-19 with near 100% accuracy. Furthermore, while a PCR (swab) test needs about 18,000,000 molecules in order to identify the virus, a dog needs only 10-100 molecules. The practical result is not only more accurate testing, but the ability to identify coronavirus days before symptoms start.
Dogs will not be roaming the terminals sniffing guests at random. Instead, dogs will be used to screen incoming international passengers during the first phase of the trial. There will be no direct contact with travelers in order to avoid potentially infecting the dog’s handlers. Travelers will swipe whir skin with a wipe, then place it into a cup. In a separate booth, the dog will sniff the sample. Results will take mere minutes, though it depends upon the dog.
To begin, 16 dogs will split the day into four shifts. Finavia, the airport operator, has contracted with a company called WiseNose to supply the trained dogs. Over time, customs dogs already onsite may be trained to perform this work.
Helsinki Airport in Finland has begun using dogs to sniff out coronavirus. The new process has the potential to be faster and more accurate than PCR testing. Could such canine screening soon be standard at airports around the world? Helsinki will be an exciting trial to watch.