The next time you’re in a heated argument over which makes a better pet between dogs and cats, instantly end the conversation and clinch the W for dogs by asking this question: Can cats smell and help prevent the spread of COVID-19?
Because it’s looking like dogs can. The Helsinki Airport is currently running a state-funded pilot program created by Finnish researchers to see if COVID-19 sniffing dogs might be a cheap, fast, and effective method of testing travelers for active coronavirus. According to the Guardian, the pilot program is funded to last for four months and so far the four COVID-19 sniffing dogs are proving to be quite effective — able to sniff out the presence of the coronavirus in just 10 seconds in a process that altogether takes less than a minute to complete.
That’s about 14 minutes faster than United Airlines recently announced rapid COVID-19 test, which they’re testing with passengers flying between San Francisco and Hawaii.
For the pilot program, international passengers arriving in Helsinki are asked to dab their skin with a wipe which is then placed in a beaker in a separate room along with other control scents where the pups come in and do their work. When the virus is found, the dogs will indicate the tainted sample by yelping, pawing, or lying down, making this the most adorable of the COVID-19 tests and a massive improvement over snorting a cotton swab. The Helsinki Airport says that in the future four dogs will work at the airport during a shift, the duration of which depends on the dogs. Currently, ten dogs are being trained for the COVID sniffing role.
The Guardian reports that scientists aren’t sure what exactly the dogs are responding to, but because they don’t have the receptors necessary for the virus to attach to, the health of the dogs isn’t affected. Preliminary tests in the study show that the COVID-19 sniffing dogs were able to identify the presence of the virus with nearly 100% accuracy, and because the dogs are able to identify COVID-19 from a smaller sample than the average PCR test requires, the dogs are actually able to identify the virus before a person even develops symptoms.