It is ‘likely’ that mink on one of the fur farms affected by coronavirus have infected a worker, agriculture minister Carola Schouten has told MPs.
Coronavirus has been found in animals on four farms and in the dust in barns where the mink are kept. One worker has the same strain of the virus as the mink and this, the minister said, makes it likely the animal was the source of the infection.
Covid-19 is known to mutate quickly and this enables more information to be gathered about the sources and spread of infections. If confirmed, it would be the first known example of the virus passing from animal to human in the Netherlands.
In addition, the strain of the virus in two of the four fur farms is similar and experts are now studying the role of cats in spreading the disease. Three of the 11 cats on the farms were found to have coronavirus antibodies in their systems. The cats are semi feral and free to roam.
All mink farms now face extra measures, with screening and protective clothing for all workers. The virus has not been found in air samples outside the barns, Schouten said.
The Netherlands introduced a ban on fur farming in 2013 which includes an 11-year changeover period and Noord-Brabant is the centre of the Dutch industry.
In 2016, the Netherlands had some 160 fur farms producing five million pelts a year and the country was the third biggest fur farming nation in the world behind Denmark and China.
Meanwhile, anti fur farm campaigners have called on the government to close all fur farms immediately.
‘Now coronavirus is spreading through fur farms, the government should not wait any longer to close them down,’ Peta campaign advisor Mimi Bekhechi said. ‘Peta is calling on minister Schouten to end fur farming in the Netherlands, before one more mink or worker pick up this deadly virus.’
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