Denmark Will Eliminate Its Entire Mink Population as COVID Mutation Spreads to Humans

Eric Todisco
·3 min read

JENS SCHLUETER/DDP/AFP via Getty Minks

Denmark plans to cull its more than 15 million mink population over fears that a mutation of the novel coronavirus in the animals has spread to humans.

During a press conference on Wednesday, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said that at least 12 people have been infected with the mutated virus, which originated in its mink farms.

According to ABC News, Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said that half of the 783 human COVID-19 cases in northern Denmark ”are related” to mink. (In total, the country has at least 51,042 COVID-19 cases in humans and over 725 deaths, per The New York Times)

“It is very, very serious,” Frederiksen said, adding that their decision to eliminate the country's entire mink population also stemmed from fears that the mutation may create difficulties for the efficacy of future vaccines. “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,” she said, according to Reuters.

HENNING BAGGER/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Minks

According to ABC News, it will cost Denmark — the world's largest producer of mink furs — up to 5 billion kroner ($785 million) to cull the country's 15 million minks.

Overall, there are between 15 and 17 million minks on about 1,100 farms in Denmark.

RELATED: Thousands of Minks Die After Coronavirus Outbreaks at Fur Farms Across the U.S.

A COVID-19 outbreak in mink population has also recently spread in the United States, specifically at fur farms across Wisconsin, Michigan and Utah.

Last month, a spokesperson for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection confirmed to PEOPLE that more than 2,000 minks have died since animals at a farm in Taylor County tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, a virus that causes COVID-19 in humans.

Lavadeira Jr/EPA/Shutterstock Minks

RELATED: Vet Expert Urges Pet Owners to 'Not Overreact' Over Confirmed Coronavirus Cases in Cats and Dogs

The Michigan Department of Agricultural & Rural Development also announced last month that minks at one of the state's fur farm in the state tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. In Utah, nearly 10,000 minks have died of COVID-19 at nine different fur farms, NBC News reported on Oct. 9.

"Minks show open mouth breathing, discharge from their eyes and nose, and are not sick for several days before they pass away," Utah veterinarian Dr. Dean Taylor told NBC News. "They typically die within the next day."

Minks were first discovered to be susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 in April when farms in the Netherlands suffered several outbreaks in its animal population, the Associated Press reported. Outbreaks among minks in Spain have since been detected.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.