Minks are furry semi-aquatic animals farmed for their fur. While Minks are farmed in many countries like Spain, Sweden, and the Netherlands, Denmark is by far the largest producer.
However, Minks have been found to be susceptible to getting infected by the SARS-CoV2 virus through farmers who have it. At least 207 farms in Jutland, Denmark were affected.
What’s worse is that scientists found a new mutated strain in the affected minks which has the ability to transfer into humans. This new strain, called “Cluster 5” was found in 12 people in Denmark alone.
As a response, Denmark culled its entire population of 17 million farmed minks around October last year. The decision was made due to concern regarding the Cluster 5 virus which may affect vaccine efficacy in humans. And according to researchers from the Statens Serum Institute in Copenhagen, the decision may not be wrong. They found that COVID antibodies did not respond well to this new mutation.
“We are working hard to find if this has any biological effects and vaccine issues. Therefore we have to look into it immediately before this potential problem grows.” – Prof Anders Fomsgaard, Head of virus research at SSI told the BBC.
However, the culling resulted in a mass outrage. Around 6000 people’s livelihoods depended on this billion-dollar industry. And while the graves were dug and the animals buried, this wasn’t the end of Denmark’s mink problem. In May this year, the country had to exhume these graves to prevent the virus from contaminating nearby waters.
“Once the mink are no longer contaminated with Covid-19, they will be transported to an incineration facility, where they’ll be burned as commercial waste,” the ministry of food and agriculture said last December.
Minks Crises may have Raised an Alarm
While Minks are still the only animals that have proved to transmit infection into humans, other animals like dogs and cats have themselves been infected by the SARS-CoV2 virus.
This has lead to Russia being the first country in the world to start administering a coronavirus vaccine to animals. The vaccine, called the Carnivak-Cov, launched back in March and many veterinary clinics have started using it to immunize breeding farms and pets belonging to people who travel frequently. The researchers estimate that it will provide immunity for around six months.
According to the BBC, many countries like the EU, South Korea, and Japan are interested in buying this vaccine. US pharmaceutical company Zoetis is also developing its formula.