The Netherlands is implementing mandatory testing at all mink farms in the country after new research suggests a human contracted COVID-19 from an infected animal, Dutch officials said.
In a letter Tuesday, Dutch officials said a worker on a mink farm contracted a strain of COVID-19 similar to one found in mink on the same farm.
Authorities initially assumed people had infected the animals, but at least one case is thought to show it happened the other way around.
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“Based on new research results from the ongoing research into COVID-19 infections at mink farms, it is likely that an infection took place from mink to human,” the Dutch government said in a statement. “It also appears from this research that minks can have COVID-19 without displaying symptoms.”
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In response, the government says screenings of mink for antibodies will be expanded to all mink farms in the country and employees will be required to wear protective equipment. Animals and manure on infected farms are banned from leaving the sites.
Mink, which are semi-aquatic, carnivorous mammals, are raised for their soft pelts on more than 130 farms in the Netherlands, according to Bloomberg News.
Outbreaks on mink farms in the Netherlands were first reported in April, when signs of respiratory disease were observed among the animals on two farms close to the Belgian border. By the end of the month, more than 2 percent of the mink died on one farm, while more than 1 percent died on the other.
Dutch authorities also said they believe cats may be playing a role in the spread of the virus on mink farms, as COVID-19 was found in three out of 11 cats at one mink farm.
“In the course of this investigation, it is advised that infected mink farms ensure that cats cannot enter or leave the farm premises,” Dutch authorities said.
Despite the research suggesting mink transmission of COVID-19 to a person, Dutch government officials said the chances of this happening are “negligible.”
Many cases of COVID-19 infections in animals have been reported. At least eight big cats tested positive for the virus at the Bronx Zoo in New York.
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