How Helsinki Airport is using dogs to fight COVID-19

In a bid to test new and efficient ways of reducing the spread of COVID-19, the operators of Helsinki Airport have enlisted some canine help

Four dogs trained to detect COVID-19 have begun work sniffing passenger samples at Helsinki Airport in Finland. Researchers hope that the dogs will provide an efficient method of testing passengers upon their arrival.

The dogs can detect the virus with near 100% accuracy. Finavia Corp

Detecting the virus is relatively simple for dogs and the results have so far been encouraging. According to preliminary tests conducted by a research group at the Veterinary Faculty of the University of Helsinki, dogs can smell the virus with almost 100% accuracy. They can also identify the virus days before the symptoms have even started – something that laboratory tests fail to do.

A total of ten dogs are being training while four are on shift at a time. Finavia Corp

Ulla Lettijeff, airport director from Finavia, commented: “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.”

Passengers create a sample for the dog to sniff by rubbing a wipe on their wrist. Finavia Corp

Taking a dog test at the facility does not include direct contact with the animal. Instead, the dog will perform its work in a separate booth and those taking the test will wipe their skin with a test wipe and drop it into a cup, which is then given to the dog. This also protects the dog’s handler from infections. All the tests are processed anonymously.

Almost all of the dogs have done scent detection before. Finavia Corp

If the test result is positive, the passenger will be directed to a health information point maintained by the city of Vantaa, which is located at the airport.

A total of ten dogs are being training for the job, but only four will be on shift at one time.