Story at a glance

  • A pilot program using dogs to identify travelers infected with COVID-19 kicked off at Finland’s Helsinki Airport Tuesday.
  • Travelers who agree to participate in the voluntary program are asked to swab their skin with a wipe that is then put into a jar and given to a dog waiting in a separate area.
  • It reportedly takes the dog about 10 seconds to indicate whether the sample is COVID-19 positive.

Finland is utilizing the skills of man’s best friend in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. 

Dogs arrived at Finland’s Helsinki Airport Tuesday as part of a pilot program that uses canines to sniff out travelers who may be infected with the coronavirus. 


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According to The Associated Press (AP), travelers who agree to participate in the voluntary program are asked to swab their skin with a wipe that is then put into a jar and given to a dog waiting in a separate area. 

It reportedly takes the dog about 10 seconds to indicate whether the sample is COVID-19 positive. Passengers checked by the coronavirus-sniffing canines will then be asked to take a standard test to determine whether the dog’s conclusion was correct. All tests are free for passengers arriving at the airport. 

“It’s a very promising method. Dogs are very good at sniffing,” Anna Hielm-Brkman, a University of Helsinki professor of equine and small animal medicine, told the AP. “If it works, it will be a good [coronavirus] screening method at any other places.”

Several studies have suggested dogs can be trained to successfully identify people infected with the coronavirus through sweat, saliva and urine samples. Some studies showed the dogs could sniff out the virus with almost 95 percent accuracy. 

While Finland has gone further than any other country in the use of dogs to sniff out the virus, the United States, Australia, France and Germany are also studying the use of canines. The United Arab Emirates started a similar program to the one in Helsinki over the summer at Dubai International Airport. 


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Published on Sep 23, 2020