The World Health Organization said Friday it was studying mink-related new strains of the novel coronavirus, warning that these could impact vaccines and treatments.
Concerns surrounding the major variations reported in the virus came amid Denmark announcing more than 210 mink-linked cases since June.
The WHO had tweeted earlier in the day: “#Denmark has announced that several people have been infected with a mink-related strain of the #COVID19 virus. WHO is working with the Danish authorities on research and control efforts.”
Dr. Maria van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, said at a bi-weekly webinar for the media that significant variations of the new mutations might impact vaccines, therapeutics, and treatments.
“There are variations in these viruses that are identified in mink,” she said.
In the specific situation relating to Denmark, she said, one virus variant had been found in a number of people.
“The authorities are looking for the extent of infection if there are other cases with this particular variant.”
“And if there are any implications down the road, as we have described as it relates to diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines. But there is a process that’s in place,” said van Kerkove.
Mink-related strains of the coronavirus had been found in 214 people in Denmark since June, the country’s State Serum Institute had reported.
The institute, which deals with infectious diseases, released a report on its website Friday, saying that one strain of the mutated coronavirus — cluster 5 — had been found in 12 people and on five mink farms so far.
Denmark, which is the world’s leading producer of mink skins, will kill its entire mink population after a mutated version of the coronavirus was found in the Nordic country, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said Wednesday.
The new version of the virus from minks to humans could adversely influence a future vaccine’s effectiveness, she noted.
WHO’s chief of emergencies Dr. Mike Ryan said at Friday’s press webinar: “We will continue to work with the scientific community to understand the implications of the findings.
“But in the meantime, the Danish authorities have to base their actions on their extent to the virus within that main population, the bio risk management available around that population, and concerns around any health impact in humans.”
Ryan said it would take time to fully understand the implications of the research — a task for WHO.
“We have to get on with that on the clinical and scientific and laboratory side of things.”
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