Mink farm Covid-19 testing in Laois and other counties update from Department of Agriculture

Conor Ganly

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Conor Ganly

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news@leinsterexpress.ie

coronavirus covid-19 mink

Samples taken at mink farm in Vicarstown, Co Laois to check for Covid-19 in animals

Samples taken from minks farmed in Laois, Donegal or Kerry have not returned positive test results for Covid-19 after checks carried out by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

The Department updated the Leinster Express on the outcome of testing which followed the outbreak of a mutated form of the diseases in Denmark. There are three farms in Ireland.

"DAFM collected samples from mink on each of the mink farms as part of an enhanced surveillance programme for SARS-CoV-2. There was no suspicion of disease on any of the holdings. The results of these samples were negative for the virus. Like all surveillance programmes, the issue will be kept under constant review," said the statement.

Millions of mink have been destroyed in Denmark after a mutated strain of Covid-19 infected people there. The drastic measures were taken because of fears of the potential impact on human vaccines.

There are three mink farms operating in Ireland. The Vasa Ltd Fur Farm is located in Co. Laois and has operated since the 1960s. The others operate in Donegal and Kerry. They have so far not commented.

When testing was ordered at the end of the first week of November the Department said it has had ongoing engagement with the mink farms since early summer. The Department said has written to mink farms in Ireland, on a number of occasions this year, and continue to engage with them to provide information on SARS-CoV-2 infection in mink and to advise on the implementation of biosecurity measures to prevent their mink being exposed to the virus.

It said the advice also includes strict adherence to the HSE public health guidelines on COVID 19.

The Department added that no mink have been imported into Ireland during 2020.

The agriculture department says a collaborative One Health approach to disease management which is implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) is an integral part of its strategy to deal with new and emerging diseases with zoonotic potential.

The Department says it also has engaged with the European Commission and is working closely with the Public Health Authorities, including the Health Protection Surveillance Centre and the HSE monitoring national and international developments in relation to SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The Department added that it has produced awareness material in relation to COVID-19 for animal owners, including a Frequently Asked Question Document which includes advice for example in situations where an animal requires care or exercise in a household where someone has COVID-19 or is restricting their movement or self-isolating in line with HSE advice.

It said this is available to view along with specific protocols for livestock farmers regarding TB testing and the prevention of the spread of COVID-19 on the dedicated COVID hub of the Department website.

Denmark, the United States, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden have reported new coronavirus cases linked to mink farms according to the World Health Organization.

The Irish Government pledged in June 2019 to ban new fur farms and phase out existing operations. The commitment is contained in the new programme for Government. The legislation is being drafted according to the Department of Agriculture.

The Department of Agriculture said in 2019 that the three farms in operation are seen as large farms producing approximately 110,000 pelts per annum.