HELSINKI — Finland has deployed coronavirus-sniffing dogs at the Nordiccountry’s main international airport in a four-month trial of an alternativetesting method that could become a cost-friendly and quick way to identifyinfected travelers.
Four dogs of different breeds trained by Finland’s Smell Detection Associationstarted working Wednesday at the Helsinki Airport as part of the government-financed trial.
“It’s a very promising method. Dogs are very good at sniffing,” Anna Hielm-Bjorkman, a University of Helsinki professor of equine and small animalmedicine, said.
“If it works, it will be a good (coronavirus) screening method at any otherplaces,” she said, listing hospitals, ports, elderly people’s homes, sportsvenues and cultural events among the possible locations where trained dogscould put their snouts to work.
While researchers in several countries, including Australia, France, Germanythe United States, are also studying canines as coronavirus detectors, theFinnish trial is among the largest so far.
Hielm-Bjorkman told The Associated Press that Finland is the second countryafter the United Arab Emirates – and the first in Europe – to assign dogs tosniff out the coronavirus. A similar program started at Dubai InternationalAirport over the summer.
Passengers who agree to take a free test under the voluntary program inHelsinki do not have direct physical contact with a dog.
They are asked to swipe their skin with a wipe which is then put into a jarand given to a dog waiting in a separate booth. The participating animals –ET, Kossi, Miina and Valo – previously underwent training to detect cancer,diabetes or other diseases.
It takes the dog a mere 10 seconds to sniff the virus samples before it givesthe test result by scratching a paw, laying down, barking or otherwise makingits conclusion known. The process should be completed within one minute,according to Hielm-Bjorkman.
If the result is positive, the passenger is urged to take a standardpolymerase chain reaction, or PCR, coronavirus test, to check the dog’saccuracy.
Timo Aronkyto,, the deputy mayor of Vantaa, the capital region city where theairport is located, said the program is costing 300,000 euros ($350,000) – anamount he called “remarkably lower” than for other methods of mass testingarriving passengers.
The four sniffer dogs are set to work at the airport in shifts, with two onduty at a time while the other two get a break.
“Dogs need to rest from time to time. If the scent is easy, it doesn’t wearout the dog too much. But if there are lots of new scents around, dogs do gettired easier,“ Anette Kare of Finland’s Smell Detection Association – alsoknown as Wise Nose – said as she gently patted ET, her white shepherd.
Source: Washington Post
Image: The dogs, including Kossi (left) and Miina, are reportedly “very good”at sniffing. (AP: Antti Aimo-Koivisto)
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