The SARS-CoV-2 situation in the Dutch mink industry continues to evolve. Dutch authorities are now reporting outbreaks of SARS-CoV-2 on 8 mink farms (with one more suspected), as part of their broader investigation of the industry. After identifying outbreaks on multiple mink farms, the infection was declared a reportable disease national surveillance was initiated, including routine testing of any captive mink that die unexpectedly.
Today, it was apparently decided that all mink on affected farms in the Netherlands will be culled. That’s been under discussion for a while, and it’s not overly surprising given the large numbers of affected mink and identification of mink-to-human transmission of SARS-CoV-2. I wouldn’t be completely surprised to see all mink farms depopulated in the Netherlands, since the industry is being closed down in the country anyway, with all mink farms required to shut down by 2024. Opting to speed up that time frame wouldn’t be surprising if the virus continues to spread to and on farms. I’ve heard that the impending ban has largely resulted in shifting production to some eastern European countries where there are fewer restrictions (so probably no better, if not worse, for the mink overall). Transportation of mink has been banned in the Netherlands, so presumably it will just be mink farmers, not mink, that migrate to these other regions. What’s going on on Chinese mink farms is also a concern, since China is the largest producer of mink globally.
Fortunately, not many people or other animals have contact with mink. Mink seem particularly susceptible to SARS-CoV-2, and this is a good reminder of why we need to pay attention to emerging diseases and consider potential host ranges. If other domestic animals or wildlife were as susceptible as mink, that would create an even bigger problem than we have now.