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Denmark is set to cull up to 17 million mink after a mutation of the coronavirus found in the animals spread to humans, posing a risk to any possible future vaccine.
According to Reuters, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said at a press conference she would be implementing the cull with a 'heavy heart' as a result of Europe entering its second wave of COVID infections.
She explained that mutations in the animals were a threat to the effectiveness of vaccines in development around the globe.
"The mutated virus - via mink - can carry the risk that the upcoming vaccine will not work as it should," Frederiksen said in the press conference.
"We have a great responsibility towards our own population, but with the mutation that has now been found, we have an even greater responsibility for the rest of the world as well.
"The mutated virus in mink may pose a risk to the effectiveness of a future vaccine," she added.
Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said about half of 783 infected people in northern Denmark - which is the home to many mink farms - had been infected with a strain which originated from the farms.
There are between 15 million and 17 million mink in Denmark as they are the world's largest producer of mink fur, with the animals bred on nearly 1200 farms.
She said the mutated virus had been detected in 12 humans and in five mink farms.
Meanwhile, she added, the government has promised compensation to farmers.
However, Francois Balloux, the director of the University College London Genetics Institute and a professor of computational systems biology, has spoken out about his doubts on implementing a cull, saying that strains are arising 'constantly'.
"There are thousands of mutations in SARS-CoV-2 arising constantly," he said on Twitter. "The fact that a few have been observed in minks will not change the strains in circulation in humans. If they were beneficial for the virus to infect its human host, they would be at high frequency already."
It's not clear how long it will take for the millions of mink to be slaughtered.
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