Denmark will cull all its mink – as many as 17 million – after a mutated form of coronavirus that can spread to humans was found on mink farms.
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said the mutated virus posed a “risk to the effectiveness” of a future Covid-19 vaccine.
Danish scientists are particularly concerned about one mink-related strain of the virus, found in 12 people, which they say is less sensitive to protective antibodies, raising serious concerns about vaccine development.
Prime Minister Frederiksen described the situation as “very, very serious”. Danish police and army will help to carry out the mass slaughter.
Ms Frederiksen cited a government report which said the mutated virus had been found to weaken the body’s ability to form antibodies, potentially making the current vaccines under development for Covid-19 ineffective.
“We have a great responsibility towards our own population, but with the mutation that has now been found, we have an even greater responsibility for the rest of the world as well,” she told a news conference.
UK has imposed an immediate ban on all visitors from Denmark amid concerns about the new strain.
Here is analysis from the BBC’s Environment correspondent Helen Briggs:
Mink virus might jeopardise vaccines
By BBC Environment correspondent Helen Briggs
More than 50 million mink a year are bred for their fur, mainly in China, Denmark, the Netherlands and Poland. Outbreaks have been reported in fur farms in the Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, Sweden and the US, and millions of animals have had to be culled.
Mink, like their close relatives ferrets, are known to be susceptible to coronavirus, and like humans, they can show a range of symptoms, from no signs of illness at all, to severe problems, such as pneumonia.
Mink become infected through catching the virus from humans. But genetic detective work has shown that in a small number of cases, in the Netherlands and now Denmark, the virus seems to have passed the other way, from mink to humans.
The big public health concern is that any mutation to the coronavirus as it passes between mink and humans might be enough to stop human vaccines working, if and when they become available. Some scientists are now calling for a complete ban on mink production, saying it impedes our response and recovery from the pandemic.
- SHOCKING footage from Denmark shows heaps of dead bodies after screaming mink are hurled into cruel killing boxes (upsetting footage): LINK.