Rows of helpless minks await a mass culling after a Spanish order, following massive COVID-19 outbreak in a mink farm in Spain’s Aragón province.
A mink farm employee along with his wife and six other farm workers tested positive for the novel coronavirus in a row since one of them first contacted the virus in May, BBC reports.
After the said farm owner’s wife tested positive for the virus for the first time back in May, health authorities tested the minks in the farm and found many of them positive for the novel coronavirus.
Since then the minks in the farm were closely monitored, and reportedly tests conducted on July 13 found the majority 87% of the minks in the farm were infected.
Bred for their prized fur, 92,700 of the semi-aquatic mammals now await mass culling after an order from the Spanish health authorities; a step taken to ensure the virus does not jump from the animals to humans.
Aragón’s minister of agriculture told media on Thursday that the step was taken “to avoid the risk of human transmission.”
According to the report, Spanish authorities have promised financial assistance to the farm that will lose nearly 100,000 of their livestock.
But the question is – can animals spread COVID-19 in humans?
As of now, no, with a hint of ‘what if.’
As per the data on the novel virus in hand, the microbe is of zoonotic origin, meaning the virus was born somewhere in animals ( a bat, widely assumed in case of COVID-19) and that animal infected the first human, leading to a chain-reaction of infection, today which is a pandemic.
CDC notes that the first infection of COVID-19 was linked to bats at a wet market in China’s Wuhan city in Hubei province – the outbreak epicenter. The top American public health body also notes that with the limited data at hand regarding animals can diffuse the coronavirus in humans actively is a low chance.
But one more fact noteworthy is that a sick COVID-19 patient can potentially infect an animal, instances of which have been seen before, CDC notes.
For instance, a tiger in New York Zoo was the first known case of an animal to contact and test positive for the novel coronavirus.
Current data suggest SARS-CoVI-2 or the virus that causes COVID-19 can infect a certain animal like cats, and dogs, among others, but when it comes to those animals spreading the virus to humans, it remains unclear.
Limited research done on animals to trace the pattern in which COVID-19 transmits between animals has found several animals become infected with the virus and even spread it to the same species in a laboratory setting. In the case of the big cats, ost of them which tested positive for the virus in the past have recovered.
What about the minks?
Reports suggest minks are affected by the virus – mink farms in the Netherlands have reported an outbreak of SARS-CoVI-2 in the animals who showed signs of respiratory and gastrointestinal illness, according to CDC.
Those farms have noted an increase in mink death. Reportedly tens of thousands of minks in recent times have been slaughtered in Denmark and Netherlands after COVID outbreak – with the same cause, presumption that humans can be infected.
Joaquin Olona, Aragón’s minister of agriculture, speaking about the order to cull he tens of thousands of minks in the Spanish farm acknowledged that it is not known if the animals spread the disease in humans. The minister has cited being on the safe side as the reason behind the culling order, BBC reports.
“We are learning about what this actually means in terms of transmission and what role they [mink] may play,” WHO epidemiologist Maria van Kerkhove said in a news briefing.
(Cover image courtesy of Abujoy via Commons)