Russia fur company head floats idea of vaccinating minks for COVID-19

A mink is seen in its cage in a mink farm in Jyllinge near Copenhagen October 24, 2012. While much of European industry is flatlining or worse, Denmark's mink industry is enjoying a bumper year, as fur is back in vogue and extreme weather in China and Russia is giving an extra boost to the business. Denmark, home to the world's biggest fur auction house, Kopenhagen Fur, produces about a quarter of the world's mink, and is struggling to keep up with demand from a fast-growing Chinese middle class. Mink now accounts for a third of Danish exports to China. Picture taken October 24, 2012. REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer (DENMARK - Tags: ANIMALS BUSINESS) (Fabian Bimmer / reuters)

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The acting head of a big Russian state fur company floated the idea on Tuesday of vaccinating minks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, after millions of infected minks were destroyed in Denmark and cases of the disease were found elsewhere.

The World Health Organization has expressed concern about the threat of people catching mutated strains of COVID-19 from infected minks. Two weeks ago, Denmark ordered all 17 million minks on its farms destroyed, after concluding that a strain of the virus that passed from humans to minks had mutated and spread back to humans.

Ivan Nesterov, acting head of state fur company Russian Sable, told the Zvezda TV station on Monday that Russia was testing a vaccine, and could vaccinate its minks once the process was finished.

When reached on Tuesday, he redirected questions to the agriculture ministry. The ministry's veterinary department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Russia has given emergency approval for a COVID-19 vaccine for use in humans. Earlier this month, Russia announced a pre-clinical study into a veterinary vaccine for COVID-19, tested on 40 cats and 40 dogs.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Peter Graff)