Up to 1.5 million mink will be put down at dozens of mink farms across Denmark due to the spread of COVID-19 among the animals and risk of further mutation.
As of this week, coronavirus has been detected at 89 mink farms across Denmark. Close to 10 percent of all Danish mink farms have been infected since the first case of COVID-19 in Danish mink was discovered in North Jutland in June. While all of the mink on the affected farms were culled during the original June outbreak, the response was later scaled back, the newspaper Information reported.
To stop the further spread of the virus, the Danish government has recommended all mink be euthanised at infected farms as well as within a 7.8-kilometre radius of the farms, as health authorities are seriously concerned about the minks' ability to transmit COVID-19.
One of the major concerns is that mutations of the virus in minks could reduce the effectiveness of a future vaccine in humans infected with mink variations of the coronavirus. The Danish Veterinary Consortium, under the auspices of the State Serum Institute (SSI) and the University of Copenhagen, called two of the new COVID-19 variants "particularly concerning". Furthermore, a link between an infected mink farm and COVID-19 infections and deaths at care homes has been established, the Danish newspaper Information reported.
Farmed mink are particularly susceptible to coronavirus as conditions on the farms, at which thousands of animals are packed closely in cages, allow for rapid transmission and mutations in pockets of the virus.
Alarmed by the gigantic losses for the profitable mink industry, local politicians have called for only the infected mink to be euthanised. Instead of blanket culls, they request for the animals at farms within the 7.8-kilometre radius be tested for COVID-19. In an open letter to Foods Minister Mogens Jensen, Finance Minister Nicolai Wammen and Business Minister Simon Kollerup, expressed a "genuine fear for the continued existence of the mink industry".
The Danish mink industry yields thousands of jobs and provides annual exports of around DKK 5 billion ($790 million). The animals are normally slaughtered around November for the use of their fur.
Denmark has seen over 33,500 COVID-19 cases and 675 deaths.