COVID-19 Detection Dogs

The amazing canine sniffer has done it again! Dogs’ noses have led them to many a job, from hunting prey to sniffing out bombs, drugs and other illegal paraphernalia, detecting illnesses like cancer and malaria, or warning their people of an oncoming seizure. Now Helsinki Airport is employing sniffer dogs to detect COVID-19 among potential passengers.


Dogs are capable of smelling substances diluted to one part per trillion. To put that figure into perspective, imagine yourself being able to note one drop of scent in the water of 20 Olympic-sized pools put together. With such tremendous olfactory ability, the Helsinki dogs are reported to require as few as 10 molecules to detect the virus (current lab tests need 18,000,000). Plus they can do it fast. Hopeful airline passengers are asked to rub their skin with a wipe, which is then handed over to the dog for a sniff test—no nasal swabs or waiting for lab tests required!


The Helsinki Airport dog program may eventually be one factor in reinstituting safe travel. Maybe similar programs will soon help increase our safety in other places, too, such as hospitals and nursing homes.


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