Health Researchers are puzzled: why are mink companies still infected?

Researchers are puzzled: why are mink companies still infected?

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Of the 128 mink companies in the Netherlands, 24 are now or have been infected with the corona virus. The clearance of the company in Ledeacker started this morning. The minks were gassed because, according to experts, that is the only way to stop the infection on a farm.

Mines on human infection

Experts believe that humans are generally the source of infection for the mink coronavirus. Research shows that it is plausible that in two cases minks have infected a human. Other cases are still under investigation.

Today’s clearance in Ledeacker is the seventh in the municipality of Sint Anthonis. In a response, the municipality says that ‘the support now mainly lies with the affected entrepreneurs’. The deputy mayor will not respond to further questions.

Face mask and no visit

Since the first outbreak of the virus on a mink farm, at the end of April, Minister Schouten (Agriculture) has taken measures. For example, all mink farmers must report symptoms of illness and dead animals must be sent in for examination. A transport ban for minks and visitors are also not welcome.

Last week, Schouten announced that the use of mouth masks and face masks is mandatory for employees who come into contact with minks.

The screenings of all mink companies were completed a month ago. A number of infected companies emerged from this. Despite the measures, new infections are now emerging in companies that previously appeared not to be infected.

Find out route

“We have no explanation for it,” says Wim van der Poel of Wageningen University. He conducts research into infectious diseases in animals. “We are currently working hard to figure out the route of the virus.”

Researchers keep various options open, such as contacts between an infected company and a company that did not have an infection. “That is the first thing we think about: that a person or animal has gone to an infected company. People are not allowed to come to other companies, but that is difficult to control,” says Van der Poel.

Controls

The NVWA started checks on the hygiene protocol a week ago. It states what precautions mink breeders should take to prevent the virus from spreading. “No discrepancies were found in the checks that were made,” said a spokeswoman.

It is difficult for the supervisor to identify violations, because an inspector must be physically present to check whether a mink breeder is receiving visitors.

“Don’t want to lose animals”

According to the Dutch Federation of Noble Animal Farmers, all mink breeders comply with the regulations. “Because nobody wants to lose their animals. And even if you adhere to the hygiene protocol: the virus may have been present somewhere before it was manifested,” says director Wim Verhagen.

Mink breeders also say they are in the dark about the cause. “Maybe it has to do with the vaccinations of young minks. They will all be vaccinated by this time and taken from their mother. That is a stressful moment, which means they have less resistance”, suggests Verhagen.

‘No intention’

The mink breeders that must be culled receive financial compensation from the government. The Party for the Animals suggested that it may be financially more favorable for mink farmers to have the animals slaughtered, because the market price is uncertain later this year.

The idea goes wrong with the mink farmers. “This is absolutely not financially cheaper,” says Wim Verhagen on behalf of the mink breeders. He therefore excludes the set-up of companies.

Veterinarians and other experts will meet tomorrow to advise the government on further measures.

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