The Helsinki airport uses sniffer dogs and catches people who are positive of coronavirus. Currently, four dogs are working for the airport and are sponsored by the state-funded pilot scheme. Finnish researchers claim that this is a fast, cheap, and effective alternative to test people for COVID-19.
Helsinki airport uses sniffer dogs for coronavirus detection
Dogs can detect if someone is positive of coronavirus within 10 secs. The entire process of detecting takes less than one minute, said Anna Hielm-Björkman, while overseeing the trial. She is researching at the University of Helsinki. She said that the technique is promising, and if it works, it will be an excellent screening process for all other places like hospitals, events, care homes, and so on.
After luggage collection, international travelers need to dab their faces with a wipe. There is a separate booth where the beaker containing the wipe is kept along with different control scents. The dogs then start sniffing to do their job.
The dog indicates that it detected coronavirus by pawing, lying down, or yelping. The passenger immediately takes a standard polymerase chain reaction test with the help of a nasal swab and verify if the dog is correct.
During the preliminary tests at the University, the dogs successfully detected illnesses like diabetes and cancer. These were the same dogs that could identify coronavirus with 100% accuracy. The best part is, even if the patient doesn’t have symptoms (or is asymptomatic), the dogs can still detect if they are COVID-19 positive or not.
How can sniffer dogs detect COVID?
Scientists are still not sure how dogs can detect coronavirus. According to a French study, there is high evidence that odor and sweat in people positive with coronavirus are different from people who aren’t infected. Thus, this helps dogs detect the difference between the two.
Dogs can identify coronavirus from a small molecular sample even if not presented with PCR tests. They only need 10 to 100 molecules to confirm the presence of coronavirus, while laboratory equipment needs at least 18m.
The international airport of Helsinki, located in Vantaa, reports that the pilot program is due to get costing for the past four months. It adds up to €300,000 but is way lower than the costs of lab tests.
As per reports, cats and minks can get infected with the coronavirus, but there are no receptors of the same for dogs. According to Hielm-Björkman, dogs don’t have the receptors for the coronavirus, and that’s why they don’t get infected. As of now, there is no evidence that they can spread the virus to people.
An organization in Finland, called Wise Nose, specializes in animal training for scent detection. They are currently training 16 dogs for this project, and 10 of them are expected to work at airports. Already four dogs named Kossi, Miina, ET, and Valo are working in the shifts of two since Wednesday.
Researchers from countries like France, Australia, Britain, and Germany are also working on such projects. However, Finland was the first in Europe to use sniffer dogs to detect COVID-19. Last month, the Dubai international airport also incorporated this move.