Finland to use COVID-19 sniffer dogs in airports

Posted by Leila Stein on 25 September 2020

Finland will soon begin using dogs and their sensitive noses to sniff out COVID-19 at Helsinki Airport.

‘We are among the pioneers. As far as we know no other airport has attempted to use canine scent detection on such a large scale against covid-19. We are pleased with the city of Vantaa’s initiative. This might be an additional step forward on the way to beating covid-19,’ said Airport Director Ulla Lettijeff from Finavia.

Dogs have been used in airports to sniff out explosive material and drugs among passengers’ suitcases for years.This new project has proven that dogs can also easily identify those with COVID-19.

According to preliminary tests conducted by a research group at the Veterinary Faculty of the University of Helsinki, dogs are able to smell the virus with almost 100% certainty. They can also identify the virus days before the symptoms have even started.

Dogs only need 10-100 molecules to identify the virus, compared to PCR tests which need around 18,000,000.

Unlike bomb sniffers, the dogs will not directly smell humans but rather sit in a separate booth. A swipe of the skin will be given to the dog to smell. All the tests will be processed anonymously.

Currently, there are 10 dogs being trained for the job to work in shifts.

‘Dogs need to rest from time to time. While two dogs are working, the other two are on a break. The service is mainly intended for passengers arriving from outside the country,’ said Susanna Paavilainen, CEO of Suomen hajuerottelu – WiseNose Ry, University of Helsinki’s DogRisk research group.

Image credit: Finavia

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