Among the many aspects that the coronavirus pandemic has changed in the global lifestyle, travel is one of the most affected. As several investigations have shown that it is possible to get coronavirus on board an airplane, airport authorities are busy improving methods of detecting the disease before an infected person comes into contact with dozens of passengers.
While most airports use temperature controls and rapid tests to locate sick people, Finland has a new weapon to fight COVID-19: dogs.
Thanks to the fact that they have 220 million olfactory receptors against the five million that humans have, canines have a sense of smell 10,000 times more precise than ours, so since this fateful 2020 began researchers from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Helsinki have trained dogs to detect the new coronavirus with their powerful noses. And today they work at the airport in the Finnish capital.
Since yesterday, a team of 16 trained dogs are participating in a pilot program in which some passengers are asked to wipe their skin with a test towel and place it in a cup. The animal then smells the towel and, if it detects the presence of the virus, the passenger is directed to the health information point at the airport. In this way, the anonymity of travelers is guaranteed and direct exposure of the dog to the pathogen is avoided.
According to the International Airport Review, dogs require only 10 to 100 molecules to detect COVID-19 with almost complete accuracy, while PCR tests using swabs require 18,000,000 molecules. In addition, dogs are able to identify SARS-CoV-2 even days before symptoms appear, something that no test can achieve so far.
Numerous investigations in various parts of the world have already demonstrated the amazing ability of canine smell to detect other conditions such as malaria and cancer.