HELSINKI: Dogs trained to detect the novel coronavirus began sniffing passenger samples at Finland`s Helsinki-Vantaa airport this week, authorities said, in a pilot project running alongside more usual testing at the airport. The dogs` efficiency has not been proven in comparative scientific studies so passengers who volunteer to be tested and are suspected as carrying the virus are instructed to also take a swab to confirm the result.
A team of 15 dogs and 10 instructors are being trained for the job 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 has worked before detecting cancers.
“What we`ve seen in our research is that the dogs will find (the disease) five days before they (patients) get any clinical symptoms,” Anna Hielm-Bjorkman, who is Adjunct Professor at the University of Helsinki and specialised in clinical research for companion animals, told Reuters.
“They are very good (at it). We come close to 100-per cent sensitivity,” she said, referring to the dogs’ ability to detect cases of the virus. In the canine test, a passenger swipes their neck with a gauze, places it in a can which is then handed over to another room for a dog to sniff and to deliver an immediate result.
A few months ago, authorities in the United Arab Emirates embarked on similar canine testing at Dubai International Airport using police dogs. “In the future, it`s also possible… that these dogs go around passengers in a similar way to customs dogs,” Vantaa deputy mayor Timo Aronkyto, said.