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Denmark set to cull mink population after mutated strain of COVID-19 spreads to humans

Published on 05/11/20 at 12:32pm
Photo by Peter Trimming

Denmark is set to cull its 17 million mink population after it was found a mutation of coronavirus in the animal had spread to humans. 

The country has said that five cases of the virus had been found on mink farms that are used to harvest the animals’ fur, while 12 cases of this new mutation have also been found in humans. 

The army, home guard and police have all been deployed to help cull the millions-strong mink population in the country in an effort to reduce the spread of this new mutated strain of the virus. Health officials from the State Serum Institute, studying the virus, found that it decreased the sensitivity of antibodies, which is problematic for pharmaceutical firms developing coronavirus vaccines. 

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said: “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.” 

The data from the Danes’ testing have been shared with both the World Health Organization and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Mike Ryan, the Head of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, has now called for a full-scale investigation of humans infecting mink and mink transmitting the virus back to humans. 

The WHO also released a statement that said: “We have been informed by Denmark of a number of persons infected with coronavirus from mink, with some genetic changes in the virus. The Danish authorities are investigating the epidemiological and virological significance of these findings.”

Denmark isn’t the only country to experience outbreaks in mink populations. There have been outbreaks in American farms in Wisconsin, Michigan and Utah. In Wisconsin, 2,000 mink have died from COVID-19 while in Utah 10,000 have died. 

In April, the first reported outbreak of coronavirus in mink was reported in the Netherlands. 

Conor Kavanagh

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