More than 1 million mink have tested positive for coronavirus - as Spain prepares to cull nearly 100,000 of the animals

Friday, 17th July 2020, 3:11 pm
Updated Friday, 17th July 2020, 3:11 pm
Nearly 100,000 mink are to be culled at a farm in Spain, after over three quarters of the animals tested positive for coronavirus, according to health authorities (Photo: Shutterstock)

Nearly 100,000 mink are to be culled at a farm in Spain, after over three quarters of the animals tested positive for coronavirus, according to health authorities.

Outbreak of Covid-19 at Spanish farm

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The outbreak at a farm in North-East Spain, in the Aragón province - which is one of the country’s coronavirus hotspots - was found after a farm employee's wife contracted the virus back in May. The woman’s husband, along with six other farm workers have also now tested positive for Covid-19.

After the workers became infected with the virus, all 92,700 mink, which are bred for their fur, were subsequently isolated and monitored. However, tests on 13 July showed that 87 per cent of the mink were infected with the virus.

Health authorities then ordered for all of the mink to be culled, but said that financial compensation will be given to the company that runs the farm.

Joaquin Olona, Aragón's Minister of Agriculture, told reporters on 16 July that the decision to cull the mink was taken in order "to avoid the risk of human transmission.”

However, Mr Olona added that it was not clear if "transmission was possible from animals to humans and vice versa.”

The Minister of Agriculture said it was possible that an infected farm worker passed the coronavirus to the animals, or that the animals passed it to workers.

More than 1 million cases of coronavirus found in mink

There have now been over a million cases of the virus in farmed mink in Europe, with cases of workers testing positive for coronavirus at mink farms in both Denmark and the Netherlands.

The Dutch government said it had found two suspected cases of farm workers being infected by mink, with tens of thousands of mink recently culled in the country, after coronavirus outbreaks were found.

Mink farmers were alerted to the problem when their animals fell sick. Conservationists are concerned that if the virus were to cross into wildlife, we might not notice for a while. And Covid-19 could be catastrophic for endangered animals, such as gorillas and chimps.

At a news conference in June, World Health Organisation (WHO) epidemiologist, Maria van Kerkhove said “there are some mink that have been found positive in the Netherlands and in Denmark, and what we understand from these investigations that are currently ongoing is that there were [...] people who infected the mink and in turn some of these mink infected some people.”

Dr van Kerkhove added, "We are learning about what this actually means in terms of transmission and what role they [the mink] may play.”