This Airport Is Getting COVID-Sniffing Dogs

'It's a very promising method,' Finnish researchers say
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 23, 2020 4:25 PM CDT
This Airport Is Getting COVID-Sniffing Dogs
Sniffer dog ET is seen with trainer Anette Kare at the Helsinki airport in Vantaa, Finland, Wednesday Sept. 22, 2020.   (Antti Aimo-Koivisto/Lehtikuva via AP)

The new coronavirus test at Finland's main international airport delivers results in less than 10 seconds—and has four paws. Helsinki Airport has deployed a team of dogs trained to sniff out the coronavirus as part the first large-scale trial of the the method, the Washington Post reports. "It’s a very promising method. Dogs are very good at sniffing," University of Helsinki professor Anna Hielm-Bjorkman tells the AP. She says that as with a similar program in Dubai, passengers who volunteer for a test won't directly meet the dogs, but will wipe their necks for sweat and put the wipe in a box, which will be given to one of the dogs to sniff. If the animal signals that the passenger has the virus, the passenger will be urged to undergo a standard test.

Hielm-Bjorkman says that if the airport trial is a success, trained dogs could be used as a cheap and efficient method to detect infections in places including hospitals and sports venues. The four dogs involved the trial were previously trained to detect cancer and other illnesses. Researchers say that dogs have been able to detect infected people with a high degree of accuracy well before symptoms appear, though they haven't figured out exactly how the detection works ."We know how dogs detect it—by smell—but we have no clue what they detect yet,” Hielm-Bjorkman says, per the New York Times. “If we find this out, we can train thousands of dogs across the world.” (More coronavirus stories.)

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