Society

Here is what You Should Know About COVID-19 Disease and Mink Farms


Sep 15 2020 - Humans, not mink farms, spread coronavirus in society. This is one of the conclusions of a new study from experts in the Dutch Outbreak Management Team Zoonosis (OMT-Z), who have conducted research on Covid-19 infected mink farms in The Netherlands. Genetic comparison documented that DNA sequences in people living in the local communities around mink farms reflected the general diversity in The Netherlands, and were not related to DNA sequences found in mink farms in the area. Yet, caution is needed with regards to Covid-19 and mink farms. The study also confirms that mink-to-human transmission of coronavirus is possible, and strict biosecurity measures are essential to keep the virus in check on mink farms. People spread coronavirus between mink farms. In The Netherlands 52 farms have been infected with coronavirus since April. The infected Dutch farms have not contributed to spreading the virus in human society, but mink farms have spread coronavirus to other mink farms. The OMT-Z research was able to link DNA sequences from most farms in the research with each other. Humans turned out to be the most common epidemiological link, for example between farms with the same owner, exchange of farm workers or common feed supply. In some cases, there was no obvious link between farms with shared DNA sequences. Therefore, farm cats or other animals are mentioned in the OMZ-T research as potential transmitters between mink farms. Mink farms as Covid-19 reservoirs is a theory, not a fact As a consequence of the increased number of Covid-19 infected mink farms in The Netherlands, the Dutch state decided to compensate mink farmers, and accelerate the ban on mink farming from original 31 December 2024 to March 2021 (effectively the end of the ongoing production season). As healthy mink farms pose no risk to public health, the Dutch decision is also tied to mink farms’ assumed potential as so-called reservoirs for coronavirus. While OMT-Z considers this potential “likely”, they also conclude that more research is needed to demonstrate if mink can be an actual reservoir of SARS-CoV-2. In all likelihood, we will get more knowledge about this soon. Currently, research is taking place on Covid-19 infected mink farms in Denmark. As a starting point, Denmark chose a different strategy from The Netherlands. Instead of culling infected mink farms, the Danish authorities decided to isolate such farms under strict biosecurity rules, coupled with a nationwide monitoring programme. This strategy provides a unique opportunity to study the development of Covid-19 disease on mink farms. New research may challenge reservoir theory The question is this: Will mink populations infected with Covid-19 achieve herd immunity and virus die out - or will virus continue to live on in the mink farm environment? If the virus continues to thrive in the farm environment, even after Covid-19 disease have swept through the farm, it makes up a reservoir. It was the Dutch experts from OMT-Z who originally coined the theory about Covid-19 mink farm reservoirs. While the theory also underpins the accelerated farming ban in The Netherlands, it was necessarily based on epidemiological assumptions since the ‘clinical trial’ to prove it was aborted with the political decision to cull mink farms as a precautionary measure. This happened approximately four weeks after the farm was infected with Covid-19. This is not the case of the mink farm research in Denmark. Due to the current Danish no-cull strategy, the on-farm study of coronavirus can continue, and the researchers can directly monitor if the virus lives on in the farm environment or not. The research from Denmark will be published in the coming months. Besides mink farms in Denmark and The Netherlands, Covid-19 has also been found in one Spanish farm, and two farms in Utah, USA. The Spanish farm was culled as a precautionary measure, while an isolation strategy was imposed on the two farms in Utah.

Society

Covid-19: Mink Farm Research to Provide Important Vaccine Knowledge


Sep 12 2020 - A mink farm in Eastern Denmark is subject to research that will provide unique knowledge in the fight against coronavirus. The 1.300 minks on this farm were infected with Covid-19, quite likely back in April sometime, but by now the animal population has achieved herd immunity and developed Covid-19 antibodies. This provides researchers with a unique opportunity to study antibody levels in an entire population. Amongst the answers, this research may provide the efficiency of a possible Covid-19 vaccine. "Antibody levels are anticipated to decrease over time, but we don’t know how fast or homogenous it will happen. We can learn a lot from mink farm samples. To begin with, we are very interested in knowing for how long a good antibody response can be observed in mink. Antibody levels have an effect on how well a possible vaccine will work, and how well you are protected against possible new infection," Anne Sofie Hammer, Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, University of Copenhagen, said. The research farm is relatively small in terms of pelt production, but for research purposes, it is a large population. In addition, the minks are roughly the same age and housed under the same conditions, and this makes up for a clinical trial setting not easily replicated elsewhere, if at all. "In order to become better at handling COVID-19, it is important to provide as much knowledge as possible about how the infection develops in both animals and humans. This is the basis for constantly optimising the prevention and treatment of the infectious disease, and this is a unique opportunity," said Anne Sofie Hammer. In the coming months results from research conducted on a number of Danish mink farms will be published, and become a part of the global fight against Covid-19. Also, Dutch researchers have published papers from on-farm research that is valuable in this regard. "The minks appear to develop Covid-19 disease in a manner similar to the pattern seen in humans. Most animals stay healthy following infection, but some animals, and perhaps particularly animals that have a less well-developed immune system, can develop severe pneumonia," Anne Sofie Hammer said.

Society

Mink Farms Do Not Contribute to the Spread of COVID-19


Jun 08 2020 - In the wake of the global Covid-19 pandemic, mink farming has achieved special attention following the outbreak of COVID-19 on three mink farms in The Netherlands in late April. Several other animals including cats, dogs, tigers, monkeys, bats, hamsters and ferrets, have proved susceptible to SARS CoV-2. The outbreak on mink farms in The Netherlands, however, also indicated the first case of animal-to-human transmission of the virus. Naturally, this gives rise to speculations about mink farming’s potential risk to public health, sometimes fueled by animal rights organisations, who are already opposed to fur farming for ideological reasons. In an extension of this, we would like to stress that mink farms are not contributing to the spread of Covid-19 amongst the human population. Both expert- and government bodies across the world continue to maintain there is no evidence of animals playing a significant role in spreading the virus that causes Covid-19. To illustrate the point, there are almost seven million people in the world, who have been infected by Covid-19 via human-to-human transmission, at the time of writing. By comparison, there are two cases of mink-to-human transmission (none of these is actually confirmed with 100% certainty). No more cases have occurred following the introduction of protective gear on infected farms in The Netherlands. As the virus is found to spread via droplets, it is furthermore unlikely that virus will spread over greater distances and make up a risk to for example neighbours to mink farms. This is further confirmed in research collecting dust and air samples the outside infected Dutch mink farms. The fur sector has issued extensive biosecurity guidelines to all mink farmers across the world. Naturally, it is our objective to keep SARS CoV-2 out of the farms in the first place. We are committed to the health of animals and people, and the guidelines are subject to updates should relevant new knowledge emerge, or other developments require it. A total of 13 mink farms in The Netherlands were found to be infected by the coronavirus. In all cases, the source of transmission is believed to be farm employees. On 3 June 2020, the Dutch Ministry of Health decided to cull the herds on these mink farms. Mink farmers have been financially compensated for their loss this year and can return to production next season. In summary: • Mink farms do not contribute to the spread of Covid-19 amongst human populations • Extensive biosecurity guidelines have been issued to mink farmers across the world • We monitor the situation closely and work together with fur associations, experts and national authorities to safeguard human and animal health

Society

New Covid-19 research results from Dutch mink farms


May 20 2020 - Based on initial research results from the ongoing investigation into Covid-19 contamination on mink farms in the Netherlands, Dutch authorities now say it may be possible that an infection from mink back to a farm employee has occurred. However, further research is needed to establish how and when people and animals associated with mink farms in the Netherlands have been infected. Based on new initial research results from the ongoing investigation into Covid-19 contamination on mink farms in the Netherlands, Dutch authorities now say it is plausible may be possible that an infection from mink back to farm employee has occurred. It is not possible to say with 100 per cent certainty how the contamination occurred. However, further research is needed to establish how and when people and animals associated with mink farms in the Netherlands could have been infected. The Dutch authorities maintain that the risk of human exposure to virus outside mink farms is negligible. Biosecurity measures have however been legally enforced on all Dutch mink farms as a consequence of the new findings, and non-essential visitors are not allowed on mink farms at present. So far the Dutch Minister of Agriculture rejects that culling of the herd is a necessary precaution. "The Dutch authorities have so far successfully taken responsibility for containing Covid-19 on the mink farms. Fur Europe has already issued biosecurity guidelines across the industry, and we will continue to react on basis of the ongoing research in the Netherlands," says Mette Lykke Nielsen, CEO of Fur Europe. Covid-19 is known to have infected a total of five farms, all in the same area of the Netherlands. As a consequence of the new findings, screening for antibodies will take place on all mink farms in the Netherlands. Farm cats are under suspicion for transmission of virus between farms, and this is a part of the ongoing research. Air and dust samples collected outside the farms have demonstrated virus is not airborne, and a 400-meter precautionary security zone around the five infected mink farms have been lifted.

Society

Fur Accessories Designer is Sewing Masks to Fight Pandemic


Apr 07 2020 - Leaving aside the furriers’ knife and the leather tools for a while, the Greek designer Alexandros Kotoulas, who is behind the brand Alexquisite, has started sewing face masks to help protect people against COVID-19. The studio in Athens, usually full of fur scraps and leather pieces, has now been transformed into a small factory with patterns, sewing machines and textiles laying around. The coronavirus outbreak halted most of his project and left Alex, like many of us, stuck at home under lockdown. But instead of working on his next collections, the former Fur Summer school participant who trained at Louis Vuitton decided to help those who could be affected by the crisis. “There was no availability of protective masks, and I thought I could use my sewing skills and invest my energy producing a small amount of them for people that would need them most,’’ says Alex. Like most counties in the world, Greece is suffering the severe consequences of the pandemic with a shortage of protective equipment. The crisis prompted many creatives people like Alex to help however they can. Despite that the sewing process is straightforward for most people with basic skills, Alex came across another problem making his task more difficult. With commercial shops closed down, there is also a shortage of textile materials, prompting him to sticks to the main the basic principle of sustainability – use every single piece of the material and waste nothing. ‘’I am trying to find the smartest way to use my existing fabrics. I used all the cotton available in the workshop to produce the prototypes, and then I ended up using two bed sheets for the lack of other textiles!’’ Even if the masks he makes are not quite up to the standard of the medical ones, they offer adequate protection to those who wear them as long as they are made of cotton and not synthetic textiles which can’t be sterilised properly. Like many small businesses in the midst of the international crisis, Alex hopes that the fashion industry will recover and people will still want a small accessory and a bit of colour in their life. While this happens, he calls all designers and furriers to help with the effort saying all it takes is a sewing machine, textiles and desire to help.