Denmark is culling millions of minks to nip a potential mutated coronavirus in the bud

Denmark is culling millions of minks to nip a potential mutated coronavirus in the bud

The coronavirus epidemic among Danish fur minks seems out of control and could pose a risk to everyone: Sars-Cov-2 could continue to mutate, making vaccine efforts useless

(photo: Pixabay) As had already happened in other countries during the first wave, Denmark is once again battling coronavirus outbreaks within fur mink farms, animals particularly susceptible to infection. If a month ago there were about forty infected farms, now there are more than 200, and the Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen was forced to arrange the elimination of 15-17 million mustelids to safeguard the public health of the Danes and the rest of the world. According to the results of the preliminary investigations, in fact, the virus inside the mink would have mutated and if it continued to do so it could turn into a new strain against which the vaccines currently under development would be ineffective. The mink coronavirus has already infected at least 12 people in the north of the country.

Coronavirus, mink and fur

Among the animals that can contract the Sars-Cov-2 coronavirus, mustelids are among the most susceptible, the studies say. Ferrets and minks, but also martens, badgers, weasels and stoats could therefore constitute a reservoir of infection within which the virus will mutate to better adapt to the new host. If he then goes back to the human being (yes, we are the ones who passed it to him) there is the risk - the Danish experts say - that it is different from the coronavirus on which efforts for a vaccine are focusing, so different as to make it ineffective.

The first Danish minister Mette Frederiksen, aware of the situation from the report of the Statens Serum Institut (SSI), although aware of the economic damage that the country will face (Denmark is among the first producers of fur mink to the world), has decided to proceed with the culling of all mink fur.

The public health of the Danes is at stake, he said, and also that of the rest of the world. You will not take responsibility for making your country the cradle of a new pandemic. In fact, twelve people have already been infected with the mink coronavirus in the Jutland region, in Northern Denmark, which is in fact in lockdown.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has been informed and is by monitoring the situation closely.

We are aware of reports from #Denmark of a number of people infected with coronavirus from mink, with some genetic changes in the virus. We are in touch with the Danish authorities to find out more about this event. # COVID19

- World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) November 5, 2020

How much has the mink coronavirus changed?

Don't panic. Denmark is not about to become a new Wuhan, Allan Randrup Thomsen, a virologist at the University of Copenhagen, told the Guardian. The risk is currently theoretical. The genetic variant of the mink coronavirus seems to reside in the spike protein, added colleague Wim van der Poel, but more studies will be needed to find out more, so much so that there are no publications in scientific journals about it yet. Among other things, there is also the possibility that the mutation makes the virus less efficient in infecting humans. However, you cannot take the risk. “This variant could develop further, to become completely resistant, and then a vaccine would no longer have an effect. Therefore, we need to remove [the mutation] from the equation, ”Thomsen commented. "This is serious".

Meanwhile in Italy ...

The substantial elimination of mink fur farms will cost a lot to Denmark, which will spend on eliminating the animals and compensating ( rightly) entrepreneurs losing an important slice of their economy.

For their part, animal welfare associations agree that the time has come for a reconversion, to accelerate the decommissioning of fur farms throughout Europe . Our local Lav did not waste time and in a note appeals to "the Italian Government, the Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, the Minister of Health Roberto Speranza and also the experts of the Scientific Technical Committee to finally decide to definitively ban breeding in Italy. of minks and animals for the production of furs ".

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