Denmark: COVID Mutation Has Spread From Minks to Humans

Some 15 million to 17 million minks spread over 1,080 farms in Denmark are to be culled

There are between 15 million and 17 million mink in Denmark as they are the world's largest producer of mink fur, with the animals bred on almost 1200 farms.

"The mutated virus in mink may pose a risk to the effectiveness of a future vaccine", Frederiksen said at a press conference. "The virus has mutated in mink".

Ian Jones, a virology professor at Britain's University of Reading, said the virus would be expected to mutate in a new species.

"As a government we will do everything we can to ensure that the mutated infection is included and does not spread further, Frederiksen said on Wednesday. Thus, the mutated virus in minks can have devastating consequences worldwide". Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said half the 783 human COVID-19 cases in northern Denmark "are related" to mink.

A mink is photographed on a farm in October in Hjoerring, in North Jutland, Denmark.

Statens Serum Institut, the Danish authority based in Copenhagen which deals with infectious diseases, had found five cases of the virus in mink farms and 12 examples in humans that showed reduced sensitivity to antibodies, she said.

"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", Frederiksen said.

The police, army and home guard will be deployed in order to hasten the culling process.

Christensen has some 15,000 minks on his farm near Esbjerg, southwestern Denmark.

"James Wood, head of veterinary medicine at Cambridge University, said the true significance of the reported mutations in Denmark "(has) not yet been evaluated by the global scientific community and (is) thus unclear".

In recent weeks, the state of Utah has been dealing with mass die-offs at mink farms that health officials believe are linked to the viral pandemic - outbreaks that likely began from contact with infected human handlers.

Breeder Jesper Christensen said farmers would have to wait and see what compensation the government offers them.

"Although the death of millions of mink - whether culled for COVID-19 or killed for fur - is an animal welfare tragedy, fur farmers will now have a clear opportunity to pivot away from this cruel and dying industry and choose a more humane and sustainable livelihood instead", Humane Society International-Europe spokesperson Joanna Swabe said. Most of its exports go to China and Hong Kong.

Denmark is the world's largest producer of mink fur, so culling up to 17 million of its minks is big news.

The animal's produce makes up around 1% of Denmark's GDP.