COVID-19 mutation means millions of minks to be killed

By Yvonne Guu

Last week, Denmark announced that mutated coronavirus strains were found in minks, which has now allowed minks to both contract the virus and spread it to their human counterparts. In response to this discovery, Denmark—one of the world’s largest mink skin producers—has set out to cull millions of farmed minks to limit further COVID-19 transmissions.

When the first stages of quarantine were implemented worldwide, many animals emerged from their hiding places, roaming around empty civilian communities unaware of the deadly virus that kept people indoors. Most notably, large numbers of rare pink dolphins reemerged in Hong Kong’s harbors as shipping came to a halt. It seemed as if animals were immune to COVID-19, but all that has changed as the virus continues to mutate in both animals and humans.

Denmark is one of the six countries who have reported cases of COVID-19 in minks to the World Health Organization (WHO). With a prominent mink industry that relies on the exportation of pelt, tens of millions of minks are farmed in just Denmark alone. Although other animals have contracted the virus and showed mild symptoms, minks are the only animal that have shown severe reactions, sometimes even leading to death. As time progressed, Denmark scientists identified a strain of the virus coined “cluster 5” that has never been seen before in their mink population. It is believed that this particular configuration of mutated virus has given way to viral transmissions between people and minks.

In an effort to combat the growing transmissions of COVID-19, Denmark’s government  revealed that they will be culling or slaughtering about 17 million farmed minks. This plan has been implemented in fear that the virus would continue to mutate, undermining the currently researched and developed antibodies and potential vaccines. 

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