As many of us are hitting the point of exhaustion and sick of hearing about the pandemic, Denmark has announced they are culling 15 million mink after a mutated coronavirus has spread to humans. According to Denmark’s Health Minister, “The mutated virus was found in a dozen people who got infected by minks with half of the 783 human Covid-19 cases in northern Denmark related to mink."
Coronavirus infections in mink is not a new phenomenon. Mink, like their relative the ferret, are known to be susceptible to coronaviruses, showing a wide range of symptoms, from no signs of illness to severe illness such as pneumonia. In Europe, cases of coronavirus in farmed mink have been detected in the Netherlands and Spain since the pandemic began. Often, mink become infected through catching the virus from humans, but in the case of the Netherlands and Denmark, the virus has been shown to pass from mink to humans.
Why are scientists concerned with this finding amid the pandemic? Well, any mutation to the coronavirus such as the ability to move between mink and humans could potentially be enough to stop human vaccines from working, which would significantly impact our ability to stop the impact of the coronavirus and our ability to get back to whatever our new normal will be.
While it may seem heartless, the ability to cull animals to stop the spread of disease is in many cases the only way to stave off larger issues. The truth is mink are not the only animals that have been culled during the pandemic. Hundreds of thousands of pigs were killed and disposed without processing them into food because of outbreaks in packaging plants when COVID-19 hit North America.
Thank you to the leaders of Denmark for caring about the health of the rest of the world.