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COVID-19 outbreak at B.C. mink farm raises concerns about virus mutation

Click to play video 'Mutation concerns rise over COVID-19 outbreak at B.C. mink farm' Mutation concerns rise over COVID-19 outbreak at B.C. mink farm
A COVID-19 outbreak has been declared at a mink farm in one of British Columbia's pandemic hotspots. Robin Gill explains why it's sparking concerns about a potentially dangerous viral mutation – Dec 7, 2020

A COVID-19 outbreak at a mink farm in B.C.’s Fraser Valley has the farming community on edge.

Health officials have not revealed the name of the farm, but Fraser Health on Sunday confirmed eight employees there had tested positive for the virus.

Millions of mink have been culled in countries such as Spain, the Netherlands and Denmark after a strain of the virus was passed from humans to mink, then back to humans in a mutated form.

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Coronavirus: Danish PM in tears after visiting mink farmer whose animals were culled – Nov 26, 2020

“Some mink will test positive but really show no symptoms at all and seem fine. Others will be sick and some will die,” Alan Herscovici from the Canada Mink Breeders Association told Global News Monday.

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“So of course it’s a concern for the farmers to try and protect their herds.”

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Mink live at the farms in densely packed cages, so the virus can spread quickly among them.

“Going back and forth between animals and humans is another opportunity for the virus to mutate at a higher rate than if it were to stay in one species only,” Dr. Dorothee Bienzle, a veterinary pathologist, said.

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Denmark to cull up to 17M minks due to coronavirus mutation – Nov 5, 2020

Cases have also been identified on mink farms in the United States.

There are 60 mink farms in Canada but so far, officials do not believe a cull is necessary in this country.

“You don’t have that concentration and the risk of contagion and the risk of passing from one farm to another is much, much reduced,” Herscovici said.

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The owner and the workers at the B.C. farm are in isolation, officials said.

-with files from Robin Gill