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Pilot project in Finland trains dogs to detect COVID-19

HELSINKI, Finland (CBS) — They’re used to sniff out drugs and explosives, but what about the coronavirus? A new pilot project at Helsinki’s airport is training dogs to do just that.

The dogs could be Finland’s newest COVID-19 detectors. Officials at Helsinki’s airport are hoping they can provide a quick and cost effective way to tell if passengers have the coronavirus, using a smell test. Researchers say the dogs are highly accurate. “What we have seen in our research is that the dogs actually will find them about five days before they get any clinical symptoms,” says Anna Hielm-Bjorkman, an adjunct professor at Helsinki University.

Volunteers walk into ‘sniff stations’ and simply swipe their skin, put the wipe in a jar, and then it’s put in front of a dog in a separate room.
If the dog deems the smell to be positive, people are given a free swab test to check the result.

Right now the pups aren’t allowed to just smell around, but if the pilot project goes well, that could change. “It’s possible that these dogs go around to passengers in a similar way that custom dogs do, but that needs law changes in Finland,” Vantaa Deputy Mayor Timo Aronkyto says.

Several different countries, including France, Germany and the U.S., have been training dogs on similar coronavirus projects. Finland is the first country in Europe to put them to work.

The dogs taking part in the project have also been trained to detect cancer, diabetes, and other diseases.

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