Dozens of human Covid cases linked to mink trade; Two more farms infected

At least 66 employees of mink farms and their family members have been infected with the coronavirus, according to a study into the SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks at 16 mink farms in the Netherlands up to the beginning of June. The coronavirus was found at another two mink farms, bringing the total number of infected mink farms in the Netherlands to 52.

The researchers used genome sequencing to track the spread of SARS-CoV-2 between mink and humans at the first 16 infected farms. A total of 97 fur farm workers were tested for the virus, and 66 of them tested positive for a strain of the coronavirus found in mink. In a number of cases, the virus was spread from mink to humans. The researchers found one case in which an infected fur farm worker spread the virus to the mink where they worked. But in most cases, it was impossible to track where the virus started and how it spread. 

The researchers said they found no evidence of airborne infection - farms located close to each other had different strains of the virus. This shows that people living near fur farms are likely not at risk of getting the virus from mink. To be sure of this, genome sequencing was also performed on 34 people who tested positive for the coronavirus and live in the same four-digit postal code as the first four infected mink farms. None of the SARS-CoV-2 strains found in these people were linked to strains found in mink.

On Monday the Ministries of Public Health and Agriculture announced that two more mink farms in the country were infected with the coronavirus. The virus was found at a mink farm in Wilbertoord, in the municipality of Mill en Sint Hubert, after farm workers reported that the animals were showing symptoms. This farm had around 1,250 mother or dam animals. These mink and their litters will be culled as soon as possible.

The virus was also identified at a mink farm with 7,500 dam animals in Overloon, in the municipality of Boxmeer. In this case, the infection was confirmed through the early warning system in which mink cadavers are tested for the virus on a weekly basis. The mink on this farm too will be culled.