Veterinarian Offers One Health Solution to COVID-19 Spread on Faroe Islands


Veterinarians – and one health – may save the day! Or at least helped on the Faroe Islands – where there have – so far – been no deaths as a result of COVID-19.  You may suggest, well the Faroe Islands has so few people. True enough, only 61,000 or so residents. But scientists credit early and frequent testing there, testing a greater percent of their residents than anywhere else in the world. And also a veterinarian donated his lab to create a test and as a facility to read that test.

The country’s prime minister, Bárður á Steig Nielsen credits early testing and the foresight of the veterinary scientist Dr. Debes Christiansen, the head of department at the National Reference Laboratory for Fish and Animal Diseases in the capital, Tórshavn to make this possible.

When Chrstiansen saw what was happening in Wuhan, China in very early January, he began to take action. Christiansen’s laboratory, which was primarily geared to test salmon for viral infection, was adapted and he purchased the extra ingredients required to test humans for SARS-CoV-2 (that causes COVID-19).

Pre- COVID-19, Christiansen’s lab had been mass testing for virus among salmon farmed in Faroese waters since an outbreak of salmon anaemia virus in 2001. Of the archipelago’s total export value, 90 percent is accounted for by fish and half of that is salmon. Faroe islands are found northwest of Scotland and halfway between Iceland and Norway. The Islands are a self-governing island territory of Denmark.

According to official records, 10 percent of the population has been tested for the coronavirus. Faroese doctors have been able to track and quarantine everyone who has had contact with the 184 people who had tested positive for the virus.

The Faroe Islands is one of three European countries, along with Georgia and Liechtenstein to so far not have any deaths from the virus (Now you know where to take your next vacation).

Noteworthy is that scientists suggest this is not pure luck because frequent testing is key. And in the Faroe Islands, it’s a veterinarian who made it happen – another example of one health, how veterinarians and human health are coming together.