Mink found to have coronavirus on two Dutch farms: ministry
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Two mink farms in the Netherlands have been put into quarantine after animals were found to be infected with the new coronavirus, the agriculture ministry said on Sunday, urging people to report any other likely cases in the animals.
The mink, which were tested after showing signs of having trouble breathing, were believed to have been infected by employees who had the virus, the ministry said in a statement.
The possibility that they could further spread the virus to humans or other animals on the farms was “minimal”, the ministry said, citing advice from national health authorities.
However movement of the ferret-like mammals and their manure was banned and the ministry said it was studying the outbreak carefully, including testing the air and soil. People were advised not to travel within 400 meters of the farms.
They were the first reported cases in animals in the Netherlands of the disease, which has been found in some pets and zoo animals around the world after spreading among people. [nL3N2CA4PU]
The towns where the farms are located, Germert-Bakel and Laarbeek, are both in the southern Noord Brabant province of the Netherlands which has seen the country’s worst coronavirus outbreak.
The mink are bred for their fur, which is sold in China, Korea, Greece and Turkey.
After pressure from animal rights activists, the Dutch government banned new mink farms in 2013 and said existing ones would have to close by 2024.
The World Health Organization has said bats in China, where the new coronavirus emerged last year, were a likely reservoir of COVID-19 and that an intermediate animal host that is yet to be identified had then infected humans. [nL5N2C901F]
Coronavirus identified on two mink farms in the Netherlands
Covid-19 has been confirmed in mink at two fur farms in the Netherlands, the agriculture ministry confirmed on Sunday.
The animals were tested after developing a variety of symptoms including breathing difficulties and because there was a higher than normal death rate, the ministry said in a statement.
Officials decided to test the animals after several workers at the two farms were also found to have coronavirus symptoms, although they had not been tested for the disease.
The farms, with over 20,000 mink between them, are in Beek en Donk and in Milheeze, both of which are in Noord-Brabant, the epicentre of the Dutch outbreak and the heart of the Dutch mink industry.
The public health institute RIVM has sealed off an area some 400 metres around each farm to walkers and cyclists as a precautionary measure, while saying there is no risk that the virus could be spread to humans. However, air and other samples are being take to check if the virus is spreading and to find out more about it has moved among the animals themselves.
‘There are currently no indications that pets or farm animals have a role in spreading Covid-19,’ the ministry said.
Farm minister Carola Schouten has introduced a reporting requirement for all mink farmers and vets, which means any suspicious illnesses must be reported to the authorities.
According to the ministry statement ‘earlier research’ has shown that ferret-like animals such as mink are susceptible to coronavirus infections.
There have been a few other reported cases of coronavirus in animals, including a tiger in New York and two cats in Hong Kong.
According to Wageningen University, coronaviruses do occur in various animal species but these are different strains to Covid-19, mostly species-specific and non-zoonotic – which means they cannot be transferred to humans.
The Netherlands introduced a ban on fur farming in 2013 which includes an 11-year changeover period and Noord-Brabant is the centre of the Dutch industry.
In 2016, the Netherlands had some 160 fur farms producing five million pelts a year and the country was the third biggest fur farming nation in the world behind Denmark and China.