On 4 November 2020, Danish authorities reported the emergence of a SARS-CoV-2 variant in mink and a small number of associated human cases which, on preliminary investigations, demonstrated reduced sensitivity to neutralising antibodies when tested against antibodies collected from people with previous SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Although investigations are ongoing, these preliminary findings have raised concerns over the risk of this or other variants arising in Mustelinae species, which may potentially hamper COVID-19 intervention efforts (vaccine and therapeutics).
This risk assessment addresses:
The risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection in captive Mustelinae species (ferrets, weasels, mink and polecats) in the UK and not other potential zoonotic sources (including Mustelidae species, such as badgers and otters) of SARS-CoV-2 infection.
The risk of UK’s captive Mustelinae population producing Mustelinae specific SARS-CoV-2 variants.
The risk of direct Mustelinae-to-human transmission of SARS-CoV-2. While the group recognises that if or once a Mustelinae-adapted strain infects direct human contacts there is a risk of onward, and possibly sustained, transmission within the human population, an assessment of the impact of this possibility sits outside the scope of this risk assessment.