2 Israelis test negative for coronavirus mutation originating in minks

2 other travelers who arrived from Denmark, where 12 people have caught variant strain, showing symptoms but yet to get results

Minks look out of a cage at a fur farm in the village of Litusovo, northeast of Minsk, Belarus, December 6, 2012. (AP/Sergei Grits)
Minks look out of a cage at a fur farm in the village of Litusovo, northeast of Minsk, Belarus, December 6, 2012. (AP/Sergei Grits)

Two Israelis who returned recently from Denmark and were feared to have contracted a new strain of the coronavirus, found in minks, tested negative for that strain on Sunday.

Instead, the two travelers have been confirmed to have caught the normal strain of COVID-19.

Two others who were showing symptoms are yet to receive the results of their tests.

The tests have come amid a special Health Ministry effort to ensure that the new strain does not enter the country.

The Health Ministry said on Monday that it was performing special testing on some 180 Israelis who recently returned from Denmark.

Israeli officials said chances were thought to be low that any of the travelers would be carrying the mutated strain, which so far has only been found in 12 people in Denmark.

“The likelihood of a patient carrying the mutation into Israel is low,” the ministry said. “At the same time, we are exercising caution.”

“It’s really frightening,” one recently returned traveler told Channel 12. “I did not think about it. I returned to Israel with my small children and I will be getting tested.”

An employee removes dead mink from a chamber after they were gassed as they have to kill off their herd, which consists of 3,000 mother mink and their cubs on their farm near Naestved, Denmark, on November 6, 2020. (Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP)

Viruses such as the novel coronavirus that emerged in China late last year mutate constantly and new variants are not necessarily worse than the previous ones. The mutations have even helped researchers track the sources of outbreaks in various countries.

So far, no study has shown newer SARS-Cov-2 variants to be more contagious or dangerous than their predecessors.

The contamination of minks is not new, with breeders in several countries, including the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United States, reporting cases. A few cases of humans being infected by minks have also been reported.

Nonetheless, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said Wednesday that there were concerns the variant could impact a potential vaccine’s effectiveness.

She said the country would kill more than 15 million minks.

AFP contributed to this report.

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