A SCIENTIST has warned that water-loving mink could be carrying the deadly Covid-19 virus around fisheries.
Boffin and keen angler Paul Phipps told Angler’s Mail: “I am an angler and animal virologist/parasitologist by trade, and have been researching the susceptibility of mink to coronavirus infection.
“The Dutch authorities are to cull animals in legal fur farms in Holland. It has been reported that all animals have been culled in 13 farms where infection has been diagnosed.
“This may be significant for UK anglers and may provide more ammunition for the culling of mink on our waterways in this country.
“It is obvious that transmission from animal to animal in the close confines of these farms occurs, but as yet there is no information as far as I am aware on how this translates to mink in the environment.
“Thankfully, mink farming for the fur trade is banned in the UK, but I have seen them on rivers on numerous occasions.
“Although I have to say that I have seen more otters in recent years, and this may be one benefit of their spread that anti-otter anglers rarely comment on.
“It is a good idea for anglers and the general public to carry items such as hand sanitisers for frequent use anyway.
“The only way out of this nightmare, until a successful vaccination programme is developed, is to observe government guidelines on social distancing and the regular cleaning of hands and the like with recommended products,” added Paul.
Mink farming was banned in Britain by 2002, but 40,000 animals are thought to be in the wild and have been breeding since 1957 here.
Angler’s Mail also reported last month that coronavirus could be spread by untreated human sewage that accidently gets into rivers.
Dutch mink were first infected with coronavirus by their handlers in April, and scientists identified two cases in which humans had been infected by sick animals in May.
Mink are the only animal-to-human transmissions known since the global Covid-19 outbreak began in China.
“All mink breeding farms where there is an infection will be cleared, and farms where there are no infections won’t be,” said Frederique Hermie of the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority.
Former barbel record holder Ray Walton said: “The risk may be small, but anglers should carry hand sanitisers, especially on rivers where there are sewage treatment works and on waters where there are mink about.
“Weil’s Disease, from rats, is also about, so it is a good idea to be clean.”
UK cat confirmed with Covid-19
The concern about mink broke not long before the UK’s chief veterinary officer confirmed that the virus responsible for Covid-19 has been detected in a pet cat in the UK.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs confirmed: “The infection was confirmed following tests at the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) laboratory in Weybridge on Wednesday 22 July.
“Although this is the first confirmed case of an animal infection with the coronavirus strain in the UK, there is no evidence to suggest that the animal was involved in transmission of the disease to its owners or that pets or other domestic animals are able to transmit the virus to people.
“The advice from Public Health England is for people to wash their hands regularly, including before and after contact with animals.”
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