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From Denmark to B.C.: how to deal with COVID outbreak at mink farm

Last Updated Dec 17, 2020 at 8:48 am PST

FILE - In this Dec. 6, 2012, file photo, minks look out of a cage at a fur farm in the village of Litusovo, northeast of Minsk, Belarus. The Dutch government said Friday Aug. 28, 2020, it is bringing forward the mandatory end of mink farming in the country by three years amid a growing number of coronavirus infections at fur farms, earmarking an extra 150 million euros (dollars 178 million) to buy out farmers by early next year. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits, File)

FRASER VALLEY (NEWS 1130) — One observer in Denmark is offering up notes of caution as a mink farm in the Fraser Valley deals with an outbreak of COVID-19.

Shane Woodford, a former B.C.-based journalist now living in Denmark, says there are a couple of key issues authorities should be keeping watch on, including what may eventually be done with the mink at a farm in the Fraser Valley..

“[In Denmark] we’re seeing an outbreak in the fur side. So basically, they killed some infected animals, they’ve taken the pelts off and they sent it down the line to be processed to go into the fur industry. And they believe that the fur itself may have been coronavirus infected and handled by somebody there processing it … so now they have over 400 COVID positive cases on the fur side of the mink farm industry here,” Woodford says.

Woodford notes scientists in Denmark are currently studying five different variations of the COVID virus that emerged from the infected mink there, one of which may be resistant to the current vaccines that are being rolled out.

“The cluster five variant basically seemed to be less susceptible to antibodies produced by people who have been infected with coronavirus, which is the basic concept behind the COVID vaccine that we’re are seeing in some countries,” he said.

“So there’s a huge panic here basically on that one note that we’re seeing mutated strains of coronavirus. But we have one particular strain that could sewer the entire vaccine production coming down the line. And that really caused the government here to hit the panic button.”

Denmark was forced to launch a wholesale cull of the country’s entire population of farmed mink due to a massive coronavirus outbreak among the animals.

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On Wednesday, a mink farm in the Fraser Valley was placed under a quarantine order because of a COVID-19 outbreak.

B.C.’s chief veterinarian banned the movement of animals and materials after five mink samples tested positive, according to a release from the province.

Test results from the five samples confirmed it’s the same virus that makes humans sick, but research continues to determine the exact strain.

Ministry of Agriculture staff report the animals will be cared for and fed until this outbreak is over.

Breeders in Denmark euthanized 2.5 million minks following COVID-19 outbreaks, while mink farmers in Spain culled almost 100,000 animals. In the U.S., nearly 10,000 minks across Utah died of COVID-19 as the virus spread rapidly across farms in the state.

– With files from Marcella Bernardo and The Canadian Press