Science | September 24, 2020 11:28 am

Helsinki Airport Using Sniffer Dogs to Detect COVID-19

The dogs can reportedly detect the virus with nearly 100 percent accuracy

The coronavirus sniffer dog named E.T. receives a cuddle from the trainer Anette Kare at the Helsinki airport in Vantaa, Finland, where he is trained to detect the COVID-19 from the arriving passengers, on September 22, 2020
Coronavirus sniffer dog E.T. with trainer Anette Kare.
ANTTI AIMO-KOIVISTO/Lehtikuva/AFP via Getty Images

Could coronavirus-sniffing dogs be the way of the future? As The Guardian reports, Helsinki Airport in Finland has begun a test program in which four dogs detect the presence of COVID-19 on incoming international passengers.

After the arriving passengers collect their luggage, they’re asked to dab their necks with a wipe, and in a separate booth a jar containing the wipe is placed next to others containing different scents. The dog starts sniffing, and if it indicates by lying down, pawing or barking that it has detected the virus, the passenger is asked to take a free nasal swab test to confirm the dog’s findings.

According to Anna Hielm-Björkman of the University of Helsinki, who is overseeing the trial, the dogs are capable of detecting the presence of the virus within just 10 seconds, and the entire process takes less than a minute to complete. So far in the university’s preliminary tests, the dogs were able to identify COVID-19 with nearly 100 percent accuracy, often before passengers who tested positive developed symptoms.

“It’s very promising,” Hielm-Björkman said. “If it works, it could prove a good screening method in other places,” including hospitals, nursing homes, sporting events and concerts.

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