Denmark is killing its large mink population after discovering a coronavirus mutation that can spread to humans, the nation’s government said Wednesday.
The country, which is the world’s largest supplier of mink fur, will cull as many as 17 million animals in an effort to stop the spread.
“We have a great responsibility towards our own population, but with the mutation that has now been found, we have an even greater responsibility for the rest of the world as well,” Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said in a press conference, according to the BBC.
She said Danish officials suspect the mutated virus could impair the body’s ability to form antibodies.
Twelve people have been diagnosed with the virus strain so far, Frederiksen said Wednesday, according to Reuters. The nation notified the World Health Organization and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
The government has not released specific details on the virus variation.
Thousands of minks recently died in Utah after the coronavirus swept through farms, according to Boise State Public Radio. But the state veterinarian said at the time people didn’t appear to be at risk from that outbreak.
Emma Hodcroft, a virologist and postdoctoral researcher at the University of Basel in Switzerland, urged people to not panic.
There’s not enough information to tell how dangerous the mutation is, she explained on Twitter. Hodcroft also criticized the lack of information disclosed.
“If Denmark believes this is serious enough to kill their entire mink population,” Hodcroft tweeted, “one would perhaps also conclude that this [is] serious enough to pass on the information about these mutations to scientists worldwide as quickly as possible to see if variants are found elsewhere.”