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All Minks to Be Culled at Bird Flu Sites, at Least 50K Fur Animals Already Ordered Killed

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The Finnish Food Authority has ordered that all minks on farms where avian influenza (bird flu) has been detected must be killed. Cases have been found at at least 20 fur farms in the country since mid-July.

So far, fur farms have been ordered to cull some 50,000 minks and foxes, but that number is likely to rise. The agency said on Tuesday that more fur farms will be closed this week due to avian influenza infections. The disease, officially known as H5N1, can spread from birds to some mammals.

The World Health Organisation said in July that “the increasing number of H5N1 avian influenza detections among mammals—which are biologically closer to humans than birds are—raises concern that the virus might adapt to infect humans more easily”.

Finland is in the midst of a bird flu outbreak, which has particularly affected black-headed gulls. Avian influenza infections have also been found in other gulls as well as some hawks, ospreys, eagles, wild geese and grebes.

The food agency, which oversees fur farms, said it has consulted with the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) in making its policy decisions regarding minks.

Termination decisions concerning foxes and raccoon dogs at fur farms are still being made on a case-by-case basis, the Food Authority said, noting that minks pose a higher risk of transforming the flu virus into a form that could infect humans.

Authorities have already closed three fur farms, ordering an estimated 50,000 animals to be put down.

“Two of these farms had minks and foxes, and they have already been ordered to be kill all minks at these facilities. One farm had only foxes. The 50,000 total therefore includes minks and foxes,” said Terhi Laaksonen, director of the agency’s Animal Health and Welfare Department.

Most of the infected fur farms are located in Kaustinen, Central Ostrobothnia and Kauhava in Southern Ostrobothnia, both in western Finland. The Food Agency has not specified which farms have been shut down.

On Tuesday, the agency was examining samples from another farm in Ostrobothnia.

Sequencing data has been sent to foreign laboratories for evaluation. Sequencing is crucial, because if mutations are detected at an early stage they can alert authorities to the pandemic potential of viruses.

Animal rights group urges end to fur farming

Also on Tuesday, Finland’s leading animal rights organisation, Animalia, called for an end to fur farming in the country due to the risk of pandemics. The NGO said that the farms offer a platform for growth and mutation to zoonotic diseases, which can be transmitted between animals and humans.

In a statement, Animalia executive director Heidi Kivekäs also criticised the Finnish Wildlife Agency’s granting of an exemption for the killing of 10,000 wild birds in an effort to limit the spread of the disease, arguing that it goes the advice of Finnish and international experts.

Source: Yle

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