All mink farms will be culled proactively if coronavirus infections continue

If recently tightened hygiene measures at mink farms don't result in a decrease of coronavirus cases on these fur farms, the animals on mink farms may have to be culled proactively, Ministers Hugo de Jonge of Public Health and Carola Schouten of Agriculture said in a letter to parliament on Monday.

The Ministers asked the Outbreak Management Team Zoonoses (OMT-Z) to re-examine the public health risks around mink farms when it comes to the coronavirus. So far mink on 25 fur farms have been diagnosed with the virus. All animals at the infected farms were culled. 

According to the experts, the most likely source of contamination for mink are humans - the infected mink likely got the coronavirus from infected farm workers. There was intensive contact with mink pups over the past weeks, as they had to be weaned and vaccinated.

Since then, the Ministers have tightened hygiene rules, and workers on mink farms are now obliged to wear personal protective gear like masks. As the incubation period for the coronavirus is several weeks, the OMT-Z expects that new coronavirus infections on mink farms will pop up in the coming weeks, but that this number will decrease after that. If there are still new infections after mid-August, the government will have to consider proactively culling mink on fur farms, instead of doing so only after an infection was confirmed, the OMT-Z said.

In the meantime, the Ministers called on all mink farm workers to be extra strict with themselves in adhering to the measures taken to curb the spread of the virus around their workplaces, including hygiene measures, the wearing of personal protective equipment, the nationwide transport ban on minks, and a ban on visitors in the stables. 

The Ministers are discussing expanding Covid-19 testing options for mink farm workers with health service GGD.