What you need to know about ‘mutated coronavirus’ in slaughtered mink

A mutated form of coronavirus has been found in a Danish mink farm prompting some concern from scientists and politicians.

The evolved strain of the virus, which appears to have spread from the animals to humans in Denmark, will lead to the culling of dozens of animals.

Officially, 12 people have been infected at farms in the north of the country – but the health minister admitted that up to half of the nation’s cases could be mink-related.

Here's what you need to know:

What has happened?

A mutated strain of what we call coronavirus has been held responsible for infecting humans in Denmark having spread from mink.

Mink are furry creatures that are kept in crowded conditions, ideal for spreading a virus.

Denmark is not the only country to have reported outbreaks, with the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Italy and the US also reporting cases.

But in Denmark, half of the countries 783 cases are being linked back to the outbreak at its mink farms.

Is a ‘mutated’ virus scary?

It is normal for a virus to change and mutate as it spreads and circulates through populations of humans and animals.

It is normal for viruses to change over time and accumulate mutations, but experts are particularly concerned when viruses pass between humans and animals.

If a virus moves from species to species there is greater need for it to adapt – so there has been some response in Denmark.

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Danish scientists believe the mutations are concerning because of their potential to make vaccines less effective.

In response the government has ordered all farmed mink to be killed due to concerns a dozen people have been infected.

Should we be worried?

There are reports that the virus particles in the mutated strain are fighting antibodies in people who have Covid-19.

If that is true then it would render a vaccine less effective.

But, it is relatively easy to tweak a vaccine to suit a mutated strain – as scientists do with the influenza.

Scientists will be monitoring the situation, but at this stage there is no widespread panic.

And in the meantime Denmark is culling its mink to avoid further cases.

It remains to be seen if the Danish mutation will be detected in other countries with mink farms.

In Sweden, there have been outbreaks at mink farms in the southeast part of the country.

Scientists reported that the genetic mutation found in Danish mink had not been detected.

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