GENEVA / LONDON (Reuters) – The World Health Organization is looking at biosafety issues around mink farms in countries around the world to prevent “rampant events” after knitting The vessel ordered the destruction of national mink because of an outbreak of coronavirus infection in animals.
Maria van Kerkhove, WHO technical team leader on COVID-19, said during a press conference in Geneva on Friday that animal-human transmission of the virus is “a concern”.
But she added: “Mutations (in viruses) are normal. “These kinds of changes in viruses are something that we have been watching from the very beginning.”
A second WHO expert said the risk was much lower than other domestic animals compared to weasels, which appeared to be much more susceptible to disease.
“We are working with regional offices … where mink farms are located, while looking at biosecurity and preventing events from spreading,” said Van Kerkhove.
Denmark says this week it plans to destroy all of its weasels and announce strict new lockdown measures in the north of the country to stop a mutated coronavirus from spreading from animals and humans. .
It has raised concerns that mutations could affect the potential efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine in development.
However, Soumya Swaminathan, WHO’s lead scientist, said on Friday that it is too early to draw conclusions about the impact of mutations in the virus found in weasels.
“We need to wait and see what its effect is, but I don’t think we should make any conclusions about whether this particular mutation has an effect on the effectiveness of the vaccine,” she said. “We don’t have any evidence at the moment that it will happen.”
The Danish State Serum Institute, which specializes in infectious diseases, says a mutant strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was found in 12 people and in five mink farms.
Kerkhove said Denmark’s decision to destroy mink was intended to prevent the formation of “a reservoir of this virus for new animals”.
Mike Ryan, WHO’s lead emergency specialist, said WHO will complete the risk assessment of the incident and share it with WHO members within hours.
Coronavirus is thought to be the first to spread from animal to human in China, possibly through a bat or another animal species at a food market in Wuhan, though questions remain.
Other mammals have been known to catch it like cats. Others, such as rats and weasels, are deliberately infected with it for medical research.
“There is always a possibility that this could return to humans,” Ryan said. “That’s a concern because mammals like weasels are very good hosts and viruses can thrive in those species, especially if they are in large numbers placed close together.”
But Ryan added that other farm animals, such as pigs and poultry, have applied “very strict” biosecurity to prevent the virus from jumping over species’ barriers.
Additional reporting by Michael Shields in Zurich, edited by Alex Richardson, Louise Heavens and Timothy Heritage