Helsinki Airport Uses Sniffer Dogs To Detect COVID-19
Helsinki airport has started using sniffer dogs in a pilot scheme that hopes to demonstrate an affordable and effective method of testing people for COVID-19.
The Finnish airport has taken on four dogs in the state-funded trial. The dogs are said to be able to sniff out the presence of coronavirus within 10 seconds, while the entire process can be done in less than a minute.
In the scheme, arriving international travellers will be asked to swab their skin with a wipe. The wipe is then placed into a beaker in a separate booth containing different ‘control’ scents.
The dog then sniffs the beakers and, if it detects the virus, will bark, paw, or lie down next to the beaker. If a scent is detected, the traveller will be advised to take a free polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, with a nasal swab, to confirm the dog’s suspicion.
Anna Hielm-Björkman of the University of Helsinki, who is leading the trial, told The Guardian:
It’s very promising. If it works, it could prove a good screening method in other places.
Hielm-Björkman hopes the airport scheme could lead to sniffer dogs being used in hospitals and care homes, and even at sporting and cultural events.
During preliminary tests at the university, the sniffer dogs were able to detect the virus with nearly 100% accuracy, in some cases days before a patient even showed any symptoms.
While dogs have been used successfully in the past to detect other diseases such as cancer and diabetes, scientists are not entirely sure what the dogs can smell that alerts them to the illness. However, a study from France, published in June this year, suggested patients with COVID-19 have different odours of sweat to those without the virus.
The sniffer dogs are also said to be able to identify the virus from smaller samples than PCR tests.
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