Several animals now working on a trial at Helsinki’s airport have been trained to detect the virus by scent on arriving passengers.
Travellers arriving at Helsinki’s airport are being offered a voluntary coronavirus test that takes 10 seconds, with no uncomfortable nasal swab needed. And the test is done by a dog.
A couple of coronavirus-sniffing canines began work at the Finnish airport Wednesday as part of a pilot programme that aims to detect infections using the sweat collected on wipes from arriving passengers.
Over the past months, international airports have brought in various methods to detect the virus in travellers, including saliva screenings, temperature checks and nasal swabs. But researchers in Finland say that using dogs could prove cheaper, faster and more effective.
After passengers arriving from abroad have collected their luggage, they are invited to wipe their necks to collect sweat samples and leave the wipes in a box. Behind a wall, a dog trainer puts the box beside cans containing different scents, and a dog gets to work.
The dogs can detect a coronavirus-infected patient in 10 seconds, and the entire process takes a minute to complete, researchers say. If the dog signals a positive result, the passenger is directed to the airport’s health center for a free virus test.
Dogs have a particularly sharp sense of smell and have long been used in airports to sniff out bombs, drugs and other contraband in luggage.
They have also been able to detect illnesses such as cancer and malaria. So in the middle of a pandemic, training dogs to detect Covid-19 became an obvious choice, said Anna Hielm-Bjorkman, a researcher at the University of Helsinki who is monitoring the trial.
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