Europe's health authority warns the spread of COVID-19 among mink and other animals could hasten and increase the number of coronavirus mutations, which can then potentially jump back to humans.
A statement Tuesday from The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control says when COVID-19 starts spreading on a mink farm, the large numbers of animal infections means "the virus can accumulate mutations more quickly in minks and spread back into the human population," reports AP:
The coronavirus evolves constantly as it replicates but, to date, none of the identified mutations have changed anything about COVID-19's transmissibility or lethality.
But the ECDC said allowing the coronavirus to spread within minks could have worrisome consequences, explaining that "the establishment of a virus reservoir among minks may give rise to problematic virus variants in the future."
"There is currently high uncertainty and further investigations are required regarding the nature of these mutations and their implications for issues such as vaccine effectiveness, reinfections and spread or severity of the virus," the ECDC said.
The agency recommended countries adopt protective measures at mink farms, including testing people working at the farms and sequencing the virus if they test positive for COVID-19. It also said animals should be tested and extra measures taken to prevent the spread of the virus from minks to humans.