Poland finds eight coronavirus cases in farmed mink

WARSAW (Reuters) - Polish scientists have identified the first cases of COVID-19 in mink at a farm in the north of the country, the Medical University of Gdansk said on Tuesday.

Poland, a major producer of mink fur, started coronavirus tests among its farmed mink and checks on workers this month after a mutated virus was found in farmed mink in Denmark, leading to a nationwide cull there.

No coronavirus cases among mink had previously been discovered in Poland.

Veterinary and sanitary authorities said last week that 18 coronavirus cases had been identified among mink farm workers since the start of the pandemic, but it was unlikely that they were infected by the animals.

The University of Gdansk said in a statement that scientists tested 91 mink for coronavirus and eight turned out positive.

“The conclusion is one - for sure SARS-CoV-2 is among the mink population in Poland ... We took 91 samples and this does not represent the whole situation, and for sure far more animals have to be tested to learn about the real scale of the problem,” said university parasitologist Maciej Grzybek, one of two scientists who tested the mink.

He said they would test more mink in the region with results expected within a week or two.

The agriculture ministry and sanitary and veterinary authorities were not immediately available for comment.

Veterinary authorities said earlier this month they had ordered tests in 18 farms in four administrative regions of the country. The northern region was not among them.

Industry groups objected strongly to the tests, fearing they could lead to a nationwide cull.

Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko; Editing by Gareth Jones, Nick Macfie and Giles Elgood