Coronavirus hits Netherlands farm animals as minks test positive for virus

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Animals at two mink farms in the Netherlands have tested positive for coronavirus, according to officials.

Dutch Minister of Agriculture Carola Schouten announced the findings in a statement released on Sunday. The animals were identified on farms in Gemert-Bakel and Laarbeek and showed “various symptoms including respiratory problems.”

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The towns in which the farms are located lie within the Noord Brabant region, which has seen the worst outbreak in the country. Some employees at both farms appeared to have symptoms.

The minister announced measures to prevent further spread, such as a “reporting obligation” for farmers, veterinarians and research institutions. The ministry further advises against "cycling or walking within a radius of approximately 400 meters around the infected mink farm" while the results of further tests are pending.

The statement noted that some of the livestock does not appear to be susceptible, so the requirements only apply to mink. As such, the ministry is isolating the animals and manure on the farm.

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These mink are the first reported cases of coronavirus in animals in the Netherlands, but other countries have reported cases of infection in animals.

The first animals to test positive were two dogs in Hong Kong in February, one of which died after leaving quarantine. The dogs had tested “weak positive” after exposure to ill owners, leading experts to warn that animals should be placed in quarantine as well.

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In late March, a cat in Belgium tested positive for the virus, a week after its owner first fell ill.

“The cat had diarrhea, kept vomiting, and had breathing difficulties. The researchers found the virus in the cat’s feces,” Professor Steven Van Gucht said at the time.

In early April, a 4-year old tiger at the Bronx Zoo tested positive, the first such case in the United States.

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The virus itself is speculated to have originated from bats in a Chinese wet market in Wuhan.