Puppy on dried grass smelling the air
Olia Gozha from Pexels,Canva

Finland is training detection dogs to smell, and detect, people with coronavirus at the airport among the arriving passengers.

Although, you will not be able to see the dogs among the travelers like you would see the detector dogs used by the Finnish Customs to uncover drugs. The COVID-19 dogs are being trained to sniff, and point out, a positive Covid-19 case out of a swab given voluntarily by the passenger.

Total of 16 dogs were selected to be trained at Vantaa, Finland. Only the best sniffers will graduate and get a job at the airport by the arrivals. Finland, like other countries around the world, has been training dogs to smell other diseases, like cancer, as well. These sniffer dogs can learn a new scent as fast as in two weeks. Kössi, Spanish street dog, is a veteran among the other trainees. He is already a trained detection dog and now he has been trained to smell coronavirus as well. Congratulations Kössi!

The discussion around using dogs to help to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Finland started in the early steps of the pandemic. The focus of the research has been to determine if the dogs are capable to point out the positive test result of the virus. Researchers at the veterinary and human medicine faculties at the University of Helsinki joined forces with Wise nose – Finland Smell Detection Association to conduct this research.

The Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat reported that giving out test samples is based on travelers consent. Passenger will be asked to swab their skin from their wrist, neck, or armpit. The specimen will be handed over to the dog handler, whom then will pass it on to the dog to sniff.

The dogs are kept separate from the travelers so they can focus on their task in hand. The passengers and the dogs will not interact.

After the specimen has been sniffed by the dog, it will mark it either positive or negative, in matter of seconds. If it turns out as positive, the passenger is guided to meet with the medical staff at the airport. COVID-19 test will be done at that point and additional guidance is given how to proceed.

Dogs are extremely sensitive to smell different things and its being said that the results given by the dogs could be more accurate than the laboratory testing. The dogs also give the results extremely quickly. This is key in preventing the spread of the virus.

Great Britain has also worked on training dogs according to CNN. According to the article, dogs are trained to smell the air around the passengers. The dog handlers are the only people whom can be in contact with the dog to shield them from getting infected. It is known that animals can get infected with COVID-19, however, there is no proof that the dog could pass the virus onto humans. In any case, these dogs are important, they  are treated really well, and made sure that their health is looked after.

CNN is also reporting that Great Britain is looking to scan over 250 travelers per hour by using these detection dogs. That would be huge step to get the air travel back to “normal”.

Using detection dogs to smell the positive corona infections could possible remove the need of home quarantine after air travel. If the results are negative, the traveler could possibly get back to normal routine right after landing.

These dogs are highly skilled, and who knows where we end up utilizing them. Nursing homes, schools, hospitals, or even at the office, these dogs could be highly beneficial. Also, the need for taking tests would be lowered and more specific. That would lower the cost and I would like to argue that swabbing your skin is a more pleasant way to give out a specimen than the traditional nose swab.

While writing this article, I am pondering, how does the coronavirus smell like to the dogs? -Hopefully like sausage.