Outbreaks among minks hold secrets to understanding animal-to-human transmission of COVID-19
When the pandemic began in Wuhan in December 2019, everybody widely thought that it came from bats, which were a delicacy at the wet market where the pilot cluster began
After outbreaks of coronavirus were reported on animal farms in Spain and the Netherlands, scientists are now wondering whether minks have the capability to transmit the virus onto humans.
Even though it is widely believed that the virus was passed on to minks from humans, scientists find it “plausible” that the minks further transmitted the virus to other staff members.
In May, when Spain was hit hard by the virus, an outbreak was recorded on a mink farm near La Puebla de Valverde, which infected over 14.
Owing to this, 92,000 minks were killed in order to limit the scope of transmission. It was believed that over 90 per cent of the animals had developed the virus.
A similar outbreak happened in the Netherlands, and scientists from the Wageningen University and Research found that the virus strain found in animals was similar to the one found in humans.
When the pandemic began in Wuhan in December 2019, everybody widely thought that it came from bats, which were a delicacy at the wet market where the pilot cluster began.
Humans to animals? Or the other way?
If the involvement of minks in enabling transmission of the virus is ascertained, it would prove that humans may catch the virus from animals, and hence need to practice more precaution.
It is widely believed that humans may pass on the infection to animals, but there is no proof of reverse transmission yet.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the transmission from animals to humans remains “very limited”, and not a threat so far. The organisation’s Dr Maria Van Kerkhove said that this may give us more information about the risk in animals.
"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)”, Kerkhove said.
In the Netherlands alone, fearing a spike in cases among humans, a million minks have been killed across 26 farms, as per data from the Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority.
All countries with mink farms in the region have upped precautions to avoid transmission among humans.