At least one hundred thousand mink at a farm in north-eastern Spain are to be culled after many of them tested positive for coronavirus.
The outbreak in Aragón province was discovered after a farm employee’s wife contracted the virus in May.
Her husband and six other farm workers have since tested positive for the disease.
The mink, bred for their prized fur, were isolated and monitored closely after the workers became infected.
But when tests on 13 July showed that 87% of the mink were infected, health authorities ordered for all 92,700 of the semi-aquatic animals to be culled.
Authorities said financial compensation will be given to the company that runs the farm, which is 200 km east of Madrid.
Along with Madrid and Catalonia, Aragón is one of the coronavirus hotspots in Spain, where more than 250,000 infections and 28,000 deaths have been recorded since the start of the pandemic.
Joaquin Olona, Aragón’s minister of agriculture, told reporters on Thursday that the decision to cull the mink was taken “to avoid the risk of human transmission”.
Mr Olona stressed that it was not clear if “transmission was possible from animals to humans and vice versa”.
But one possibility, he said, was that an infected farm worker unwittingly transmitted the disease to the animals. Another unsubstantiated theory was that the animals passed on the disease to workers, he said.