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Coronavirus-hunting sniffer dogs deployed at Helsinki airport

Thursday, September 24th 2020, 4:02 pm - A team of 15 dogs and 10 instructors are being trained for the job in Finland by volunteers, sponsored by a private veterinary clinic.

Dogs trained to detect the novel coronavirus began sniffing passenger samples at Finland's Helsinki-Vantaa airport this week, authorities said, in a pilot project running alongside more usual testing at the airport.

The dogs' efficiency has not been proven in comparative scientific studies so passengers who volunteer to be tested and are suspected as carrying the virus are instructed to also take a swab to confirm the result.

A team of 15 dogs and 10 instructors are being trained for the job in Finland by volunteers, sponsored by a private veterinary clinic. Among them is Kossi, a rescue dog from Spain, who was trained as a sniffer dog in Finland and who has worked before detecting cancers.

Anna Hielm-Bjorkman, who is Adjunct Professor at the University of Helsinki and specialised in clinical research for companion animals, said their research had shown that the dogs can find the disease five days before the patients get any clinical symptoms.

In the canine test, a passenger swipes their neck with a gauze, places it in a can which is then handed over to another room for a dog to sniff and to deliver an immediate result.

A few months ago, authorities in the United Arab Emirates embarked on similar canine testing at Dubai International Airport using police dogs.

Vantaa deputy mayor Timo Aronkyto, said that in the future it would be possible for the dogs to walk among passengers the way customs dogs do.

(Thumbnail image by Pixabay)

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