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Coronavirus: Helsinki airport trials sniffer dogs as Covid-19 detectors

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  • Coronavirus pandemic
image copyrightReuters
image captionThe dogs started working at the airport earlier this week

Sniffer dogs are a familiar sight at airports all over the world, where border agents use them to detect illegal substances and contraband.

Now some dogs are using their noses for a different purpose - coronavirus.

Dogs specially trained to detect Covid-19 have this week started sniffing passengers as part of a trial at Finland's Helsinki-Vantaa airport.

Volunteers are training a team of 15 dogs and 10 instructors for the research programme.

  • Coronavirus sniffer dogs trial going 'very well'

The dogs can detect coronavirus in humans five days before they develop symptoms, Anna Hielm-Bjorkman, the University of Helsinki professor who is running the trial, told Reuters news agency.

"They are very good [at detecting coronavirus]. We come close to 100% sensitivity," she said.

image copyrightEPA
image captionArriving passengers are asked to wipe their necks with cloths
image copyrightReuters
image captionThe samples are then placed in cans and put in front of dogs to sniff
image copyrightReuters
image captionCanine coronavirus tests take minutes to complete

Passengers wipe their necks with cloths, which are then placed in a can and put in front of dogs to sniff. A canine test can deliver a result within minutes.

But while the trial has shown early promise, more research needs to be done to prove the efficiency of canine testing. At the moment, passengers who take part in the trial are also instructed to take a swab to confirm the result.

image copyrightReuters
image captionSniffer dogs Miika (left) and Titta started their training more than three weeks ago

Vantaa Deputy Mayor Timo Aronkyto said it was possible that the dogs could in future "go around passengers in a similar way to customs dogs".

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