Effectiveness of Passive and Active Surveillance for Early Detection of SARS-CoV-2 in Mink during the 2020 Outbreak in the Netherlands


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Effectiveness of Passive and Active Surveillance for Early Detection of SARS-CoV-2 in Mink during the 2020 Outbreak in the Netherlands


Research article by: Inge M.G.A. Santman-Berends, Gerdien van Schaik, Marieke Augustijn-Schretlen, Irene P.I.H. Bisschop, Jan de Rond, Paola A. Meijer, Harold M.J.F. van der Heijden, Francisca C. Velkers, Marion P.G. Koopmans, Wim H.M. van der Poel, Lidwien A.M. Smit, Arjan J.A. Stegeman, Reina S. Sikkema, Bas B. Oude Munnink, Renate W. Hakze-van der Honing and Robert-Jan Molenaar.

Starting December 2019, a novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) spread among humans across the world. From 2020 onward, farmed mink were found susceptible to the virus. In this paper, we describe the Dutch surveillance system and the added surveillance components for early detection of SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks and their results in Dutch mink farms. In the Netherlands, a surveillance system was in place in which mink farmers could submit carcasses for postmortem evaluation and could contact a telephone helpdesk for veterinary advise. Through this system, the first SARS-CoV-2 outbreak in two mink farms was detected in April 2020. Immediately, the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture commissioned a consortium of statutory and research institutes to intensify the surveillance system. The program consisted of both passive surveillance, i.e., mandatory notifications and active surveillance components, i.e., serological screenings and weekly risk-based sampling of dead mink for early detection of new SARS-CoV-2 infections. When one of the surveillance components indicated a suspicion of a possible SARS-CoV-2 infection, follow-up samplings were conducted and at confirmation, all mink were culled. During 2020, 67 out of 124 mink farms that were under surveillance became infected with SARS-CoV-2 (54%). Of these, 31 were detected based on clinical signs (passive surveillance of clinical signs) and 36 were detected through active surveillance. From the mink farms with a new SARS-CoV-2 outbreak that was detected through the surveillance, in 19% of the farms (n=7), the mink never showed any clinical signs of SARS-CoV-2 and might have been missed by the passive notification system. This study underlines the added value of a surveillance system that can quickly be intensified. The subsequent combination of both passive and active surveillance has shown to be effective in the early detection of emerging pathogens, which is important to minimize the risk of zoonotic spill-over.

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