AP

Scientists study coronavirus outbreaks among minks in Europe

Aug 2, 2020, 9:27 AM
Scientists study coronavirus outbreaks among minks in Europe...
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. Coronavirus outbreaks at mink farms in Spain and the Netherlands have scientists digging into how the animals got infected and if they can spread it to people. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits, File)
(AP Photo/Sergei Grits, File)

MADRID (AP) — Coronavirus outbreaks at mink farms in Spain and the Netherlands have scientists digging into how the animals got infected and if they can spread it to people.

In the meantime, authorities have killed more than 1 million minks at breeding farms in both countries as a precaution.

The virus that first infected people in China late last year came from an animal source, probably bats, and later spread from person to person, as other coronaviruses had done in the past. Some animals, including cats, tigers and dogs, have picked up the new coronavirus from people, but there hasn’t been a documented case of animals spreading it back to humans.

The outbreaks among the minks on farms in the Netherlands and Spain likely started with infected workers, although officials aren’t certain. But it also is “plausible” that some workers later caught the virus back from the minks, the Dutch government and a researcher said, and scientists are exploring whether that was the case and how much of a threat such a spread might be.

The outbreak at the Spanish mink farm near La Puebla de Valverde, a village of 500 people, was discovered after seven of the 14 employees, including the owner, tested positive in late May, said Joaquín Olona, regional chief of agriculture and environment. Two other employees got infected even after the operation was shut down.

More than 92,000 minks were ordered killed at the farm in the Aragon region of northeastern Spain, with nine out of 10 animals estimated to have contracted the virus.

After the Dutch outbreaks began in April, professor Wim van der Poel, a veterinarian who studies viruses at Wageningen University and Research, determined that the virus strain in the animals was similar to the one circulating among humans.

“We assumed it was possible that it would be transmitted back to people again,” the virus expert said, and that’s what appeared to have happened with at least two of the infected workers.

Richard Ostfeld, a researcher at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York, said that if confirmed, these would be the first known instances of animal-to-human transmission.

“With the evidence for farmed mink-to-human transmission, we definitely need to be concerned with the potential for domesticated animals that are infected to pass on their infection to us,” Ostfeld said by email.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says some coronaviruses that infect animals can be spread to humans and then spread between people, but it adds that this is rare.

Both the World Health Organization and the Paris-based World Organisation for Animal Health are studying the transmission of the virus between animals and people. Several universities and research institutes also are examining the issue.

The WHO has noted that the transmission on the mink breeding farms could have happened both ways. But WHO’s Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove said at a news conference last month that such transmission was “very limited.”

“This gives us some clues about which animals may be susceptible to infection and this will help us as we learn more about the potential animal reservoir of (the virus),” she said, referring to cases in the Netherlands and Denmark, another major producer of mink fur.

While scientists think the virus originated in bats, it may have passed through another animal before infecting people. A WHO team is currently in China, planning to study the issue.

More than 1.1 million minks have been killed on 26 Dutch farms that recorded outbreaks, according to the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority. The government announced Thursday that minks at a 27th farm also were infected and would be killed.

The Netherlands, which has some 160 mink farms, is the world’s fourth-biggest producer of the prized fur after Denmark, China and Poland, according to Wim Verhagen, director of the Dutch federation of fur farmers. Spain has 38 active mink breeding operations, most of them in northwestern Galicia.

Both Spain and the Netherlands have tightened hygiene protocols at mink farms and banned transportation of the animals and visits to the buildings where they are kept.

China, which produces about a third of the mink fur market, and the United States have not reported any virus outbreaks in minks or in animals at other farms.
—-
Corder reported from The Hague. Associated Press writers Maria Cheng in London and Ken Moritsugu in Beijing contributed.
___
Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

Today’s Top Stories

AP

TikTok shown on a phone. TikTok is proving influential in poliitics...
DAVID KLEPPER Associated Press

TikTok politics: Candidates turn to it ‘for better or worse’

TikTok isn't just about viral dance challenges anymore, but also a place to shop, learn about beauty, fashion or even politics.
3 days ago
Damage from Hurricane Ian...
ADRIANA GOMEZ-LICON Associated Press

Ian returns to hurricane status, meanwhile floods trap many in Florida

Hours after weakening to a tropical depression while crossing the Florida peninsula, Ian regained hurricane strength Thursday evening after emerging over the Atlantic Ocean.
4 days ago
An uprooted tree, toppled by strong winds from the outer bands of Hurricane Ian, rests in a parking...
CURT ANDERSON Associated Press

Ian makes landfall in southwest Florida as Category 4 storm

About 2.5 million people had been ordered to evacuate the area before the storm hit the coast on Wednesday with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph (241 kph).
5 days ago
The White House to ask for less money to fund border wall...
ACACIA CORONADO and GISELA SALOMON Associated Press

Increase in Venezuelan migration is felt across US

Last month, Venezuelans surpassed Guatemalans and Hondurans to become the second-largest nationality stopped at the U.S. border after Mexicans.
7 days ago
In Iran, protests have led to violent clashes between citizens and security forces. Protesters pict...
The Associated Press

At least 9 killed as Iran protests over woman’s death spread

The scope of Iran's ongoing unrest, the worst in several years, still remains unclear as protesters in more than a dozen cities.
10 days ago
U.S. Capitol pictured. The House just voted on an election law...
MARY CLARE JALONICK Associated Press

House passes election law overhaul in response to Jan. 6

The bill, which is similar to bipartisan legislation moving through the Senate, would overhaul an arcane 1800s-era statute known as the Electoral Count Act
11 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
large group of friends tohether in a park having fun...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

What differentiates BYU’s MBA program from other MBA programs

Commitment to service is at the heart of BYU’s MBA program, which makes it stand out among other MBA programs across the country.
a worker with a drill in an orange helmet installs a door in the house...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

Home improvement tip: Increase the value of your home by weatherproofing doors

Make sure your home is comfortable before the winter! Seasonal maintenance keeps your home up to date. Read our tips on weatherproofing doors.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
A paper reading IRS, internal revenue service is pictured...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Scientists study coronavirus outbreaks among minks in Europe