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Greece has started culling 2,500 mink that have tested positive for coronavirus amid fears sparked by a mutant strain detected in Europe.
Distressing pictures show piled of dead animals being dumped into a mass grave after the virus was detected at two farms in the north of Greece.
An agriculture ministry official said the strain found in the mink had not mutated from that found in humans.
Denmark last week ordered the culling of 17 million mink after finding that the mutated virus, which spread to 12 people in August and September, showed decreased sensitivity to antibodies, potentially making future vaccines less efficient.
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Culled mink are carried to a mass grave at a farm near Kaloneri, Greece
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Danish farmers have demanded an end to the slaughter of the animals.
The EU health agency has warned that the transmission of coronavirus among mink could lead to the virus rapidly mutating before jumping into humans
A mutated virus could be more infectious, more deadly and increase the risk of reinfection, in addition to potentially making vaccines less potent.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control issued fresh guidance to curb the spread of coronavirus between mink and humans.
The cull of about 2,500 mink at a farm in Greece began on Saturday
A pile of dead mink in a military area near Holstebro in Denmark
(Image: via REUTERS)
In Greece, the breeder at one of the mink farms, in the northerly Kozani region, also tested positive for the virus, and tests were being conducted on workers.
A cull of the 2,500 mink at that farm began on Saturday.
Fur production is an important industry in Kozani and nearby Kastoria, where the second farm is located.
Greece's population of mink is estimated at hundreds of thousands, and fur exports bring in about £62 million a year.
"This has dealt another blow to the 800 families living off the sector in the region," said Dimitris Kosmidis, head of the Greek fur federation in Kozani.
Denmark's entire stock of 17 million mink is due to be culled after a mutated coronavirus was found in mink farms there, and more than 15,000 mink in the United States have died of the new coronavirus since August.
Denmark will cull about 17 million mink after a mutated form of coronavirus was found
(Image: Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Ima)
An aerial view of a mink farm near Kaloneri in northern Greece
(Image: DIMITRIS TOSIDIS/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)
Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said on Friday that Denmark has not registered any new examples of humans infected with a so-called Cluster-5 mutated coronavirus strain stemming from mink.
Farmers demanded an end to the cull after no new human cases were detected in recent weeks.
At least 214 human cases in Denmark have been linked to mink farms.
Human-to-human transmission is thought to have occurred.
Experts have said the significance of any variant strain and its effect on humans was unclear because it was yet to be studied.
Officials last week began genome sequencing of all positive coronavirus results registered in northern Denmark, where most of the infected mink farms are located, in order to check for the mutation.
Denmark is the world's largest mink fur exporter and produces an estimated 17 million furs per year.