Denmark: More than 200 people diagnosed with mink-related coronavirus – The Independent

Denmark has found mink-related versions of coronavirus in 214 since June in Denmark, according to a report updated on 5 November.

In a report published on its website, the country’s State Serum Institute, which deals with infectious diseases, says that the most worrying strain of the mutated coronavirus has only been found in 12 people and on five mink farms so far.

On Wednesday, Denmark announced plans to cull some 17 million minks in a bid to stop the spread of the mutated coronavirus, which public health experts say could put future coronavirus vaccines at risk.

Denmark has discovered several strains of mink-related coronavirus in some 207 different farms, with the disease spreading across the western peninsula of Jutland.

Lab tests and preliminary studies suggest that antibodies in people infected with Covid-19 were less effective in inhibiting one of the strains, which the report calls “Cluster 5”.

Of the 12 people infected with this mutated strain, 11 are from the North Jutland region in the country’s north-west.

Four of them were connected to three of the farms where the strain was found.

The institute calls the finding “worrying” and says that further studies are underway. 

It adds that the mutated virus is no more dangerous or contagious than other strains of the coronavirus, but it could undermine the effectiveness of future vaccines.

Mutations making the virus less sensitive to antibodies have been a concern for “a long time” but remained theoretical until Monday 2 November, when Danish scientists saw the results of their studies.

They sent a risk assessment to the government on 3 November, warning that continued mink breeding could result in a substantial spread of the mutated virus and pose “a major risk to public health”.

“The best way to get rid of this variant is generally to slow down the spread of infection,” the report reads.

In announcing the culling of millions of minks, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said Wednesday that the situation was “very, very serious” and that it could jeopardise efforts to develop a vaccine.

“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 said.

According to government estimates, culling the country’s 17 million minks could cost up to 5 billion kroner ($785 million).

National police head Thorkild Fogde said “it should happen as soon as possible.”

Denmark is the world’s largest mink producer.

The WHO is preparing a risk assessment on Denmark’s mink-related coronavirus cases.

Maria Van Kerkohove, an epidemiologist with the World Health Organisation, said on Friday that the organisation was also looking at biosecurity to prevent “spillover events” in countries with regional WHO offices.

Tens of thousands of mink have already been culled in Europe, including 100,000 in Spain after coronavirus cases were found at a farm in Aragón province in July.

Thousands of mink have also been slaughtered in the Netherlands following similar outbreaks there.