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Denmark will cull entire mink population after COVID-19 outbreaks

The goal is to keep a virus mutation from spreading

Photo by Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP/Getty Images

Denmark plans to cull up to 17 million mink, the country’s entire population, after reports that the animals could pass a coronavirus mutation to humans. The announcement came from Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen at a press conference, and there are currently no published scientific reports on the mutation or its effects.

The virus has been found at over 200 mink farms in Denmark, which produces most of the world’s mink fur. Over a million animals were already culled on Danish farms in October. This summer, about 100,000 mink were culled in Spain after similar outbreaks. Outbreaks on mink farms in Utah killed thousands of animals.

Denmark’s announcement comes after 12 people in the country were found to be infected with a type of the novel coronavirus that had also been found on mink farms. The goal of today’s order is to keep this particular mutation from spreading. “Continued mink breeding will entail a significant risk to public health — both nationally and internationally,” Kare Molbak, executive vice president of Denmark’s infectious disease authority, said at the press conference.

Right now, there is no scientific data publicly available on this mutation or its behavior, though Frederiksen claimed today that the variant is less sensitive to antibodies against the virus. It will take more context to understand the mutation and the impact it might have on the trajectory of the pandemic and the development of both treatments and vaccines. “Scientists will update when we have more info,” tweeted virologist Emma Hodcroft, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Basel in Switzerland.