New developments in how COVID-19 spreads between humans and animals have revealed a discouraging fact. There’s at least one animal that can spread the virus to humans, possibly as many as two. Scientists have speculated that bats were the source of the spread of SARS-CoV-2 (novel coronavirus) in China. Now COVID outbreaks in Denmark have been traced back to exposure to infected minks raised for their fur.
6. The Mink Connection
Early in the pandemic, researchers hypothesized that it all began with the virus crossing species from horseshoe bats to humans. However, this hypothesis was noted as “possible”, not proven. Until the cross-species spread from minks in Denmark, humans were thought to be very safe from catching the virus from any other animals. Because the number of minks raised for fur in Denmark are in the millions, they suddenly became a significant threat to public health. Around 17 million mink were set to be destroyed, including healthy animals not carrying the virus, but public outcry delayed the killing of all mink in Denmark for now.
There’s a troubling twist in the coronavirus spread from minks to humans. The virus seems to mutate from one species to another. As reported by the New York Times, mink can catch the virus from humans, pass it to each other, and then pass it back to people. Over 200 people infected by mink in Denmark contracted mutations of the original coronavirus. The virus mutations aren’t more dangerous to human health, but they do pose a problem. If vaccines are developed for the original coronavirus, will they also create immunity for the mutated virus? That’s the question on the minds of health authorities.
Fortunately, not every mutation of the virus spread by mink to humans is considered an additional health risk. Mutations the Denmark scientists found located in spike proteins of the virus could still be covered by vaccines currently being developed. Though, as the New York Times indicated, the testing on these mutations is preliminary. One virus mutation called cluster 5 is cause for concern. Time will tell if additional vaccines will be necessary. In the meantime, a few million of Denmark’s farmed mink have already been culled to lower the chances of spread and the possibility of new mutations to occur.
5. Other Animals in Danger
Though mink are the only animals proven to spread COVID-19 back and forth with humans, other animals can contract and become sick with the virus. Lions, tigers, dogs, cats and more are in danger of catching COVID from humans. Read on to learn more about each of these animals and how they have been affected. Perhaps more time and research will reveal that other creatures are susceptible to coronavirus illness. Hopefully the cases of infections are limited to the following animals until viable vaccines are widely available.