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These Finnish Dogs Are Sniffing Out COVID-19, Being Very Good Boys and Girls

Dogs will save the world.

Finland is piloting an exciting new program to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Four specially trained sniffer dogs have begun working at the Helsinki airport to detect the virus on travelers. And the results have been very impressive, as scientists running the program have found “close to 100% accuracy” in the testing. Scientist Anna Hielm-Björkman of the University of Helsinki said, “It’s very promising, … If it works, it could prove a good screening method in other places.”

Airport Director Ulla Lettijeff from Finavia (the Finnish airport operator) said, “The pilot that will be kicked off on Tuesday. We are among the pioneers. As far as we know no other airport has attempted to use canine scent detection on such a large scale against covid-19. We are pleased with the city of Vantaa’s initiative. This might be an additional step forward on the way to beating covid-19.”

The method of testing is fairly straightforward: arriving international travelers wipe their neck and wrists with a pad. The pad is then placed in a scent beaker, and placed next to a control beakers with different scents. If the dog paws at or barks at the sample, then the person is given a free polymerase chain reaction (PCR) nasal swab test to confirm their status.

The dogs were not only incredibly accurate in their diagnoses, but were able to detect the presence of the virus in asymptomatic people. Sniffer dogs have been previously trained to detect cancer, diabetes, and other diseases. But many of those trainers are now shifting their research to coronavirus detection.

These dogs are not only only accurate, but they deliver faster results than lab testing, and require a much smaller sample amount. Sniffer dogs only need 10-100 molecules to detect the virus, as opposed to the 18 million molecules needed for the PCR nasal swab test. The dog program also costs far less than laboratory testing, with faster results.

Similar testing has been done in Germany, France, Dubai, and other countries, but Finland’s pilot program is the first of its kind. Dogs possess incredible senses of smell, with up to 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses. By comparison, the human nose has roughly six million receptors. And the portion of a dog’s brain that analyzes and catalogues smells is 40 times greater than own.

Sniffer dogs can come from a variety of backgrounds and breeds. “The breed doesn’t really matter if it is excited about the work. It’s easy, dogs are using their noses everywhere all the time,” said one of the scientists. In summation, dogs will save us all. Your move, cats.

(via The Guardian, featured image: screencap/Guardian News)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. She currently lives in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband and two poorly behaved rescue dogs. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.