According to the Danish health authorities who detected and investigated it, the new strain of SARS-CoV-2 has a lower sensitivity to antibodies than others that are already in circulation worldwide, which may mean that current vaccines under development may be out of date even before they are completed.
“We have a huge responsibility towards our own population but, with the mutation that has been detected, we have an even greater responsibility towards the rest of the world,” explained Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen at a press conference.
“The mutant mink virus may pose a risk to the effectiveness of a future vaccine,” said Frederiksen, adding that “there are risks of it spreading from Denmark to other countries.”
“The worst case scenario is a new pandemic originating in Denmark,” corroborated Kare Molbak, director of the Serum State Institute, responsible for the Danish response to infectious diseases and who carried out investigations on the new strain.
The lower sensitivity to antibodies is extremely worrying, Molbak acknowledged, and “that’s why we have to take this very seriously.”
The mink was infected by humans with SARS-CoV-2 and became the contagion vectors themselves. The conditions for raising the animals, of several individuals in cages glued to each other, may have facilitated not only the transmission of the coronavirus between them but also the resistant mutation now detected.
The solution advanced by Fredriksen was the slaughter of the entire population of mink in the country, estimated between 15 and 17 million animals bred to supply the fur coat industry. The police, the army and the national guard will be deployed to the farms for the slaughter to take place as soon as possible, announced the Danish prime minister. In addition to Denmark, the world’s largest producer of mink skins, similar outbreaks have occurred in Spain and the Netherlands in recent months, leading to the slaughter of hundreds of animals to contain the spread of the virus.
Since June, Denmark has been slaughtering animals infected with SARS-CoV-2, without being able to solve the problem, especially in the north of the country. Some of these areas will now be placed under tighter restrictions and their populations will be tested for possible transmission chains.
The conclusions of the State Serum Institute have already been shared with the World Health Organization and the European center for Disease Prevention and Control.
WHO Director of Emergency Response Mike Ryan last Friday called for extensive investigations into the “complex, very complex issue” of humans – outside of China – infecting other animal species, which in turn relay the virus to humans humans.
The possibility of the new coronavirus remaining in animal products for human consumption, even under freezing conditions, has also been addressed with some concern in recent months.
SARS-CoV-2 is a coronavirus that originates from Chinese bat populations and has mutated in order to spread to other species. The infection has been facilitated by markets in China that sell these and other live animals for human consumption of their meat.
Since the first large-scale infections detected in December 2019 in China, the new coronavirus has infected more than 46.9 million people worldwide and the disease it causes, Covid-19, is associated with 1.2 million deaths.
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