Will a new version of the Coronavirus emerge from minks?

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Sophie Spiegel, Health and Science Editor

Seven countries have reported mink-related COVID-19 mutations in humans. This is due to the fact that minks kept in large numbers on mink farms have caught the virus from infected workers. The issue is, a mink variant called C5 makes it harder for antibodies to neutralize and may pose a threat to the newly released vaccine. 

Each year, more than 50 million mink are bred for their fur, mainly in China, Denmark, the Netherlands and Poland. According to The Guardian, Denmark launched a nationwide cull a selective slaughter of wild animals of around 2.5 million minks in early November due to the supposed risks they pose to the new vaccine. Outbreaks have been reported on fur farms in the Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, Sweden, Italy and the United States.

The World Health Organization (WHO) responded to the threat by mentioning that all viruses change over time, even this mink-produced variant. They stated that in order to fully understand the real impact of specific mutations, advanced, time consuming studies and capable scientists are required. As with any virus, there are countless potential COVID-19 variants. All of the world’s scientific advancements, including vaccines, cures and medications, were achieved by conducting experiments and countless research. A little over a year ago, this virus was virtually unheard of; therefore, more research must be conducted before any conclusions regarding threats to the upcoming vaccine can be reached. The recent findings reported by the Danish government need to be tested further, according to WHO and Statens Serum Institut, since there is little information on most of the COVID-19 variants. WHO reassures that members of the WHO SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution Working Group are working with Danish scientists to get a better understanding on what’s going on and whether or not it poses a real threat. SARS-CoV-2 being a strain of COVID-19 that produced variants due to the mink outbreak and other unrelated outbreaks.

WHO has called on all countries to step up and tighten biosecurity measures around mink farms as well, according to BBC News.

Regarding the United States, the mink-produced strain of COVID-19 is present in some areas. According to research carried out by Jama Network, as of Nov. 24 fewer than 10 percent of people had detectable SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. WHO has stated that the strain doesn’t cause an imminent threat at the moment, therefore it’s not something the general public should be concerned about, at least not until they conduct more research on the strain and whether or not it poses a serious threat.