Six countries have reported cases of coronavirus in farmed mink, the World Health Organization has said.
Italy, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands and the United States join Denmark in noting the presence of the virus among populations of mink farms, the WHO said in a statement.
The concern about infections in mink populations stems from the recent discovery of virus mutations in farmed mink in Denmark.
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The “cluster 5” variant, as the WHO calls it, has a combination of mutations that have not been seen before. The WHO says that “the implications of the changes identified in this variant are not yet fully understood”.
“Initial observations suggest that the clinical presentation, severity and transmission among infected individuals are similar to those of other circulating SARS-CoV-2 viruses,” the WHO statement said on Friday.
However, the “cluster 5” variant has so far been shown to be less inhibited by antibodies than the normal virus, which, according to the authorities, could threaten the effectiveness of vaccines in development around the world.
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Denmark recently announced plans to slaughter up to 17 million farmed mink after discovering 12 humans had caught the mutated form of the virus.
“We have a great responsibility towards our own people, but with the mutation that has now been discovered, we have an even greater responsibility towards the rest of the world too,” Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said at a conference in hurry.
Frederiksen said the massacre would take place as soon as possible and would involve the armed forces, according to the New York Times.
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Outbreaks have persisted on farms across the country since the start of the pandemic.
As early as April, Dutch officials noted the presence of COVID-19 in at least two mink farms. Spain discovered more cases on mink farms in July, leading to a cull of around 100,000 in this case.
Overall, the Spanish and Dutch governments have slaughtered around 1 million mink on farms in both countries.
The United States discovered populations of infected mink in August at two farms in Utah. The cases at both farms were linked to infections among people who handled the animals.
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The USDA, however, said: “There is currently no evidence that animals, including mink, play a significant role in the spread of the virus to humans. Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals transmitting SARS-CoV-2 to humans is considered low. ”
Fox News’s Brie Stimson contributed to this article.