Denmark will cull 17 million mink over fears the ferret-like animals are passing on a mutated strain of coronavirus to humans.
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced the drastic move on Wednesday (Thursday AEDT) as the death toll from Europe’s second wave climbed sharply in some hard-hit countries.
Frederiksen – who is self-isolating after a close contact tested positive – said authorities had detected coronavirus strains in humans and mink which showed decreased sensitivity against antibodies.
She ordered the national cull with a “heavy heart” but said mutations in the animals were a threat to the effectiveness of vaccines in development around the globe.
“The mutated virus – via mink – can carry the risk that the upcoming vaccine will not work as it should,” Frederiksen said in a press conference.
“We have a great responsibility towards our own population, but with the mutation that has now been found, we have an even greater responsibility for the rest of the world as well.”
Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said about half of 783 infected people in northern Denmark, home to many mink farms, had been infected with a strain stemming from the farms.
Heunicke said the mutated virus had been detected in 12 humans and in five mink farms.
There are between 15 million and 17 million mink in Denmark – the world’s largest producer of mink fur. They are bred on nearly 1200 farms. The government has promised compensation to farmers.
It has shared its findings with the World Health Organisation, which was already investigating whether animals could transmit the disease to humans.
A targeted cull has been under way at some farms since July but the police, army and national guard will be deployed over the coming days to cull the entire population quickly. Mink have also been culled in some other countries, including the Netherlands and Spain.
However, Francois Balloux, the director of the University College London Genetics Institute and a professor of computational systems biology, cast doubt on the findings.
“There are thousands of mutations in SARS-CoV-2 arising constantly,” he said on Twitter. “The fact that a few have been observed in minks will not change the strains in circulation in humans. If they were beneficial for the virus to infect its human host, they would be at high frequency already.”
In Britain, a new month-long national lockdown came into force in England on Thursday night amid warnings a steadily rising rate of infections and hospitalisations threaten to overrun the National Health Service.
The United Kingdom recorded a further 492 deaths on Wednesday, bringing the death toll over the past fortnight to 3584.
The lockdown passed the House of Commons on Wednesday but 55 Conservative Party MPs opposed it or abstained from it.
“None of us came into politics to tell people once again to shutter their shops, to furlough their staff or stay away from their friends and family,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Parliament.
Deaths also rose by 394 in France, 352 in Italy and 1623 in Spain after the government there revised its count.
Courtesy of smh.com.au
Up to 1.5 million minks are likely to be put down at dozens of mink farms in Denmark due to the spread of Covid-19 amongst the animals.
As of Monday this week, coronavirus has been detected at 76 mink farms in the Nordic country, around 7 percent of all Danish mink farms. The first case of Covid-19 in Danish mink was discovered in North Jutland in June.
Subsequently, the government has recommended that all minks be put down at farms where cases are detected as well as within a 7.8-kilometre radius of the farms.
That means as many as 1.5 million minks could be euthanised due to the outbreaks, Danish news wire Ritzau has reported.
Health authorities in the country are seriously concerned about the ability of Covid-19 to be transmitted by minks.
The virus spreads very quickly between farmed mink. Newspaper Information reports that health authorities are concerned about mutations of the virus in minks that could reduce the effectiveness of a future vaccine in humans infected with mink variations of the coronavirus.
Minks are particularly susceptible to coronavirus and conditions on the farms, at which thousands of animals are packed closely in cages, enable rapid transmission and mutations in so-called “reservoirs” of the virus, according to Information’s report.
The Danish Veterinary Consortium, under the auspices of infectious diseases institute SSI and the University of Copenhagen, has warned that two new variants of Covid-19 are “particularly concerning”, Information reports.
The government has stepped up its response to mink infections as the number of affected farms has increased in October.
While all mink on affected farms were culled during the original June outbreak, this response was scaled back before being later being reinstated along with the extension to farms within a 7.8-kilometre radius of outbreaks.
A link between an infected mink farm and infections and deaths due to Covid-19 at a care home in Hjørring had been found prior to this, according to Information’s report.
The animals are normally slaughtered around November for the use of their fur.
Local politicians have called for the central government to only euthanise infected mink, citing the impact of the culling on jobs in the mink farming industry.
Municipal leaders have sent an open letter to foods minister Mogens Jensen, finance minister Nicolai Wammen and business minister Simon Kollerup.
“We mayors are in genuine fear for the continued existence of the mink industry,” the letter states according to TV Midtvest.
The mayors argued that the response risks “crushing an industry with many jobs and annual exports of around five billion (kroner)”.
Their requests include minks at farms with the 7.8-kilometre radius be initially tested for Covid-19, rather than culled.
Courtesy of thelocal.dk
Authorities in northern Spain have said that over 90,000 mink must be culled at a farm after around 90 animals tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Aragon regional government said it had to take the “drastic” measure that concerns 92,700 mink in accordance with national animal health laws.
The farm in Teruel province’s La Puebla de Valverde has been kept in isolation since May 22 after seven workers tested positive.
The region’s chief of agriculture and environment, Joaquin Olona, said there is no evidence of whether the virus was transmitted from the workers to the animals or the other way around.
“We are absolutely certain that the virus is present in these animals and community transmission between animals is taking place,” Olona said, according to Spanish private news agency Europa Press. He added the goal of the culling was to avoid “risks to public health.”
While previous studies have found that COVID-19 is contagious among some animals, like cats and dogs, far less is known about the possibility of animal-to-human transmission and researchers are looking into the subject.
Mink are semiaquatic, carnivorous mammals bred for their furs.
The Netherlands, one of the world’s top exporters of mink fur, has already culled hundreds of thousands of mink since June 6.
As many as 24 mink farms have reported infections, according to a statement from the ministry for agriculture released earlier this week. Several employees at these farms have also tested positive.
So far, all the animals at 23 previous farms have been slaughtered.
The Dutch government has tightened the hygiene protocol for mink farms with a nationwide transport ban and a visitor ban in stables among the measures. Mandatory testing was also implemented.
It is also working on a scheme to allow farms to voluntarily shut their businesses ahead of the 2024 deadline when mink farming will be prohibited in the country.
Courtesy of euronews.com