On Wednesday, the covid-19 sniffer dogs Kössi, Miina, E.T and Valo received Special Hero Dog awards for their work at Helsinki Airport. Every year, the Finnish Kennel Club gives Hero Dog Awards to dogs that have helped save one or more human lives.
“We wish to congratulate the covid-19 sniffer dogs for the commendation. They are the true heroes of the covid-19 pandemic. These canine heroes have attracted extremely wide international interest, which proves the unique nature of this type of activity,” says Ulla Lettijeff, Helsinki Airport Director at Finavia.
In a press release, the Finnish Kennel Club says that the work of the covid-19 sniffer dogs makes a real positive difference in terms of people’s well-being.
The covid-19 sniffer dog operation has been welcomed very favourably. The dogs started working at Helsinki Airport in September. So far, of the more than 2,000 passenger samples sniffed at the airport, less than one per cent have tested positive for the coronavirus. On average, it takes about two minutes to test one passenger.
“Passengers have welcomed the testing by covid-19 sniffer dogs. It is great that this new innovation became available to us in these exceptional times,” Lettijeff says.
The covid-19 dogs sniffer dogs working at Helsinki Airport are trained by Wise Nose. Nose Academy, the research group’s start-up company, is running the operation.
The preliminary tests, conducted by a research group at the Veterinary Faculty of the University of Helsinki, have indicated that dogs are able to smell the virus with almost 100% certainty. They can also identify the virus days before the symptoms have even started. This is something that laboratory tests fail to do.
According to Wise Nose, dogs are also able to identify covid-19 from a much smaller sample than the PCR tests commonly used by health care professionals. The difference is massive, as a dog only needs 10–100 molecules to identify the virus, whereas test equipment requires 18,000,000.
Covid-19 testing by specially trained dogs is intended for all passengers arriving on international flights. The test is anonymous and free of charge. Passengers who get a positive test result are directed to the City of Vantaa health information point at the airport.
City of Vantaa comments that at present, the contract for the dogs’ work at the airport continues until the end of 2020, until project funding expires.
Finavia has introduced a wide range of measures at airports, including Helsinki Airport, to prevent the spreading of the coronavirus. One such measure is that everyone is required to wear a face mask at all Finavia airports.