The Danish government has ordered the country’s mink farms to cull over 1 million mink due to a series of Covid-19 outbreaks among the animals.
The current outbreak is believed to have started in late June when a Covid-19 patient was associated with a mink farm in North Jutland, according to a report by the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. The disease was found to have spread to the mink after the Danish Patient Safety Authority had samples taken from 34 of the farm’s animals.
The government began to introduce measures in the summer to limit the spread of Covid-19 on mink farms, but the number of cases dramatically increased in September.
By early October, mink on nearly 60 farms in North Jutland alone had tested positive for Covid-19 and another 46 were under suspicion, according to Mogens Jensen, the Danish Minister of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries.
“We have continuously launched initiatives to manage and contain the spread of infection,” Jensen said in a statement. But, she added, “In view of the recent large increase, we must unfortunately state that it has not been sufficient to prevent continued spread of infection among the North Jutland mink herds.”
The order is sweeping. Mink farms within five miles of a farm or herd that is confirmed or suspected to be infected with Covid-19 are also going to be culled, Jensen said.
“It is a difficult decision that the government has made, but we fully support it,” said Tage Pedersen, chairman of the Danish Mink Breeders Association.
“In recent weeks, we have all experienced that more and more farms in North Jutland have been infected, and no one has been able to explain the increase. Human health must come first.”
The culling process will be handled by the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration and the Danish Emergency Management Agency, and mink breeders will receive compensation for the loss of their herd along with compensation for their operation losses.
Denmark is the world’s largest producer of mink skins. According to the Danish Agriculture and Food Council, there are approximately 1,500 Danish fur farmers that produce nearly 19 million mink skins per year.
On October 9, it was reported that thousands of mink have died at fur farms in Utah and Wisconsin following Covid-19 outbreaks. The virus progresses quickly in mink, with most infected mink dying the following day. It’s unclear why the species is so susceptible to coronavirus while other animals are not affected.
CNN’s Cheri Mossburg and Brian Ries contributed to this report.