Denmark has decided to slaughter a herd of mink at a farm in North Jutland, after numerous animals and one employee tested positive for coronavirus, the Veterinary and Food Administration said.
The farm was immediately quarantined after animals displayed symptoms of the coronavirus. Subsequent tests revealed that 33 out of the 34 animals tested either had the virus itself or antibodies against it. Now, up to 11,000 mink face culling under precautionary measures. Mink infected with coronavirus risk getting serious breathing problems and dying.
Food Minister Mogens Jensen said the authorities are taking the situation seriously and are taking all measures to prevent the infection from spreading. He justified the decision to cull the creatures with safety considerations and a lack of more concrete knowledge.
This is the first recorded case of a coronavirus infection at a Danish mink farm. Previously, the coronavirus was spotted at 13 mink farms in the Netherlands. There, a tough culling decision totalling about 400,000 mink was taken.
The Danish Mink Breeders' Association suggested that the mink must have been infected by a human who had contracted the virus, possibly the owner or an employee.
The Veterinary and Food Administration emphasised that animals do not play a significant role in the spread of coronavirus.
“There is still no indication that pets play a role in the spread of COVID-19 to humans”, a spokesperson said.
This view was shared by experts, such as Lars Erik Larsen, a professor of virology at the University of Copenhagen, who stressed that it is well known that cats, ferrets, and mink are especially susceptible to viral diseases derived from humans. At the same time, he cautioned against fearing that pets will make you sick.
“We know very little about the coronavirus, but as the recommendations are from the Danish Veterinary Association, there is generally no great risk of animals infecting humans”, mink disease specialist at Aalborg University Trine Hammer Jensen told Danish Radio.
Denmark is the world's largest mink producer, and fur is the third largest animal export item in Danish agriculture. Danish mink breeders produce about 17 million mink skins annually and annual exports exceed DKK 7 billion ($1 billion).
So far, Denmark has seen 12,294 confirmed COVID-19 cases and close to 600 fatalities. While the country has long abandoned the lockdown and is gradually opening up, the Danish Finance Ministry envisages an economic downturn worse than the financial crisis of 2007-08, with the nation's GDP sinking by an estimated 5.3 percent, leading to a spike in unemployment.