COVID-19: All mink in Denmark must be culled

Based on a new risk assessment from the Danish health authorities, the Danish government has decided to cull all Danish mink herds. This follows the discovery of a new mutated virus.

Published 5. November 2020

Target groups:

The Danish government has decided to cull all mink in Denmark.

This is based on the fact that the Danish health authorities (Statens Serum Institut) in preliminary studies have found a new mutated COVID-19 virus in mink that can affect the effect of a vaccine.

- We are facing one of the biggest health crisis the world has ever experienced. The Danish government and I are painfully aware of what this means for all the Danish mink farmers who are about to lose their livelihood and for some their entire life's work. But it is the right thing to do in a situation where the vaccine, which is currently the light at the end of a very dark tunnel, is in danger, says Minister for Food and Fisheries Mogens Jensen.

Dangerous reservoir of infection
In mid-June this year, the first mink farms in Northern Jutland were found infected with COVID-19, and the virus has since spread to 207 farms spread across Jutland, counted 4 November 2020.

The Danish health authorities (Statens Serum Institut) have previously found various mutations of COVID-19 in Danish mink, and on the recommendation of the Danish veterinary and health authorities, the Danish government decided on 1 October 2020 to cull all infected mink herds and herds within a radius of 7,8 kilometers.

The Danish health authorities (Statens Serum Institut) have now found a mutation in tests from five mink farms in Northern Jutland and in tests from 12 persons and testing shows that the potential vaccines would not work effectively on this mutated virus .

At the same time, mink farms constitute a large virus reservoir that increases the risk of several new virus mutations.

Minister for Health Magnus Heunicke says:

- The Danish health authorities assess that mink farming during the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic entails a possible risk to the public health - and for possibilities to combat COVID-19 with vaccines. The Danish health authorities (Statens Serum Institut) have found a mutation and preliminary studies suggest that this mutation may affect the effectiveness of the current candidate for a vaccine against COVID-19. However, there is no evidence that those people infected with this mutation experience a more serious disease. A large virus reservoir of mink increases the risk of mutations re-emerging, which increases the risk that vaccines will not provide optimal protection. Taking into account the current situation in Northern Jutland, we unfortunately have to look at a number of local initiatives and further restrictions to contain the virus.

Incentive for mink farmers
It is crucial that the culling of the minks takes place quickly.

Thus, the Danish government is now introducing an economic incentive of 20 DKK for each mink if the mink farmer cull his herds within 10 days – or 5 days for herds under 7.500 animals.

Likewise, the Danish Police and the Danish Armed Forces will intensify their efforts.

- The Danish government will appeal to the sector and the mink farmers to support and contribute to this effort, although I understand that it will be a very difficult task for the farmers that will have to cull all their animals, says Minister for Food and Fisheries Mogens Jensen.

More information:
Ministry of Environment and Food, phone +45 2091 5901
Ministry of Health, phone +45 2132 4727