Wild mink in Utah tests positive for SARS-CoV-2

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FILE – In this Sept. 4, 2015, file photo, a mink sniffs the air as he surveys the river beach in search of food, in meadow near the village of Khatenchitsy, northwest of Minsk, Belarus. Coronavirus outbreaks at mink farms in Spain and the Netherlands have scientists digging into how the animals got infected and if they can spread it to people. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits, File)

UTAH (ABC4) — A wild mink living in the area of an infected Utah farm has tested positive for SARS-CoV-2.

Officials said to the best of their knowledge, this is the first free-ranging, native wild animal confirmed with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans.

The USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratories confirmed the result by real-time RT-PCR and sequencing of a nasal swab collected from a free-ranging wild mink sampled in Utah.

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has notified the World Organisation for Animal Health of this detection as part of the epidemiological study in the surrounding area of the infected farm.

APHIS conducted wildlife surveillance for the coronavirus in meso-carnivores and other species around infected mink farms in Utah, Michigan and Wisconsin between August and October.

Surveillance was conducted as part of investigations involving the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US Geological Survey, and State Departments of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Health.

Health officials say there is currently no evidence that the coronavirus is circulating or has been established in wild populations surrounding the infected mink farms. Several animals from different wildlife species were sampled, but all others tested negative.

Many mink farms across the world have seen outbreaks of the coronavirus, including Oregon, Michigan, Wisconsin, Denmark and the Netherlands.

Utah’s state veterinarian Dr. Dean Taylor told ABC4 in November that data does not suggest mink are a threat to people.

“To date, nothing has shown that virus has gone the other direction,” Taylor said. “However, we’re still watching for that to happen, and we’re going to listen to those reports when they come out.”

Taylor added that mink becoming infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 likely come from workers or owners interacting with the animals.

Thousands of mink on Utah farms have already died because of the virus.

In August, the USDA’s National Veterinary Service Laboratory announced the first confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 in mink in the United States.

Five infected mink were identified at two Utah mink farms.

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