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Finland begins coronavirus testing at dozens of mink farms

A decision on further testing at the country's roughly 200 farms will be made following the initial test results.

Två minkar står på bakbenen och tittar ut ur sin bur.
File photo of caged minks at a fur farm. Image: EPA-EFE/All Over Press

Finnish health authorities are set to carry out widespread coronavirus testing of minks at around 30 fur farms across Ostrobothnia, a region in western Finland.

The widespread testing effort was sparked following recent news of coronavirus epidemics spreading among animals at mink farms in Denmark and the Netherlands. In some cases the virus was transmitted from the animals to humans, prompting Danish health authorities to order the destruction of the industry's mink population, which numbers in the millions.

The majority of Finland's roughly 200 mink farms are located in Ostrobothnia.

Story continues after photo.

Ilmakuva turkistarhasta.
Aerial photo of fur farm in Ostrobothnia. Image: Ville Viitamäki / Yle

Working under the agriculture and forestry ministry, the Finnish FoodAuthority (Evira) promotes animal health and welfare, among other responsibilities.

The farms selected for testing are located in 10 different municipalities in various parts of the region. According to Evira, local coronavirus transmission human rates were taken into account when the farms to be tested were selected.

President of the Finnish Fur Breeders' Association, Kenneth Ingman, said he was pleased about the testing effort.

Story continues after photo.

KENNETH INGMAN, puheenjohtaja, Suomen Turkiseläinten Kasvattajain Liitto
Kenneth Ingman. Image: Ville Viitamäki / Yle

"It is good to find out if we have any cases. There have been none so far, let's see what the results are," Ingman said.

So far, no coronavirus infections have been detected among minks at Finnish fur farms, according to Evira.

The authority said that test samples taken from animals which have spontaneously died will be delivered to its laboratory for examination. Live mink are also to be tested with throat swabs, according to Evira, which noted that the initial testing effort is expected to be completed by the end of next week.

Once results from those tests are complete, a decision will be made regarding future coronavirus testing at all of the country's fur farms.

"Situation better in Finland"

The fur breeders' association president Ingman has a fur farm in the Ostrobothnian town of Nykarleby, and said that the farms have been monitoring the coronavirus situation in cooperation with authorities since the spring.

He said that measures have already been taken to prevent the spread of coronavirus at farms, including limiting unnecessary movement at the facilities, the use of face masks and the quarantine of temporary farm workers.

"The same way people can protect themselves, animals can be protected," Ingman explained.

However, he said he was concerned about Denmark's decision to cull millions of mink.

"It was maybe a bit of an overreaction to [decide to] kill all of the animals. It looks bad," Ingman said, pointing out that Finnish mink farmers have discussed the situation with their Danish counterparts and that no one yet knows how the virus spread from one farm to another.

Hoping to avoid a similar situation in Finland, Ingman said that he has trust in the competence of local authorities.

"In Finland, the farms aren't as close to each other as in Denmark. We have been vigilant since the spring, informed the workers and cooperated with authorities. I think the situation is better in Finland," Ingman said.

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