Dogs used to detect coronavirus in pilot project at Helsinki airport


HELSINKI (Reuters) – Dogs trained to detect the novel coronavirus began sniffing samples from passengers at Finland’s Helsinki-Vantaa airport this week, authorities said, as part of a pilot project alongside more usual tests at the airport.

The dogs’ effectiveness has not been proven in comparative scientific studies, so passengers who volunteer to be tested and are suspected of carrying the virus should also take a swab to confirm the result.

A team of 15 dogs and 10 instructors is trained for work in Finland by volunteers, sponsored by a private veterinary clinic. Among them is Kossi, a rescue dog from Spain who was trained as a sniffer dog in Finland and who worked before finding cancers.

“What we’ve seen in our research is that dogs will find (the disease) five days before (patients) have clinical symptoms,” Anna Hielm-Bjorkman, who is an adjunct professor at the University of ‘Helsinki and specialized in clinical research of pets, told Reuters.

“They are very good (at it). We are approaching 100% sensitivity, ”she said, referring to the ability of dogs to detect cases of the virus.

In the dog test, a passenger rubs their neck with gauze, places it in a box which is then returned to another room for a dog to sniff and deliver an immediate result.

A few months ago, authorities in the United Arab Emirates undertook similar dog tests at Dubai International Airport with police dogs.

“In the future, it is also possible… that these dogs will bypass passengers in the same way as customs dogs,” said Vantaa deputy mayor Timo Aronkyto.

Reporting by Anne Kauranen and Attila Cser; Edited by Alexandra Hudson

Photo: Coronavirus sniffer dogs named Miika and Titta are shown at the Evidensia veterinary clinic in Vantaa, Finland, September 2, 2020. The dogs are trained to detect SARS-CoV-2 from arriving passengers at the Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport. Lehtikuva / Antti Aimo-Koivisto via REUTERS


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