Dogs sniffing for explosives and drugs are a common sight at airports around the world. But 10 dogs at the Helsinki Airport are searching for something potentially as dangerous.
A group of coronavirus-sniffing dogs were deployed at the airport for the first time on Tuesday, as part of a pilot program, according to Finnish airport operator Finavia. It’s the first airport in Europe, and the second in the world, to use dogs in the fight against the coronavirus.
“This might be an additional step forward on the way to beating COVID-19,” airport director Ulla Lettijeff said in a written statement.
Trained dogs can smell the coronavirus from 100 molecules or less — far less than the 19 million molecules used in PCR tests, according to Finavia. And research from the University of Helsinki has indicated dogs may have close to 100% accuracy in detecting the virus.
A similar program at Dubai International Airport, where the idea of coronavirus-sniffing dogs was first implimented, reported the dogs' accuracy at 91%, Fox News previously reported.
Unlike lab tests, the dogs can even detect the virus before an infected person displays symptoms, according to the airport operator.
The dogs will mainly be used to test travelers arriving from outside the country, according to Susanna Paavilainen, CEO of Wise Nose, the company training the dogs and running the operation.
Passengers being tested at the airport won’t come into direct contact with the dogs. Instead, travelers will wipe their own skin and drop the sample into a cup, which is presented to the dog in a separate booth.Currently, testing is optional and anonymous, with passengers voluntarily submitting to be sniffed.
Any passengers who test positive for COVID-19 will be sent to a city health information point inside the airport.
Most of the dogs in the program have performed scent detection before. One of them, Kossi, learned to identify the scent of coronavirus in just seven minutes, according to Finavia.
Four dogs will work per shift, according to Paavilainen.
“Dogs need to rest from time to time,” Paavilainen said in a written statement. “While two dogs are working, the other two are on a break.”