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More US mink farms report cases of coronavirus infection

Published Dec 1st, 2020 6:37PM EST
Image: Paul/Adobe

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  • The novel coronavirus has been spreading at a mink farm in Oregon.
  • The farm was quarantined soon after the onset of symptoms, and workers were told to self-isolate.
  • The mink is currently the only animal known to pass the coronavirus back to humans. There’s also concern that the virus can mutate inside mink populations and lead to new strains that might resist vaccines.

The only animal that can pass the coronavirus back to humans is the mink, based on what we know about the pathogen so far. There’s also the matter of the animal that infected the first coronavirus patient, but that’s a COVID-19 mystery that hasn’t been solved. Meanwhile, minks continue to contract the illness from humans. The biggest concern right now is that mink farms could facilitate transmission between animals, at which point the virus can mutate.

The Danish government decided to cull 17 million minks after discovering a mutation passed to a limited number of humans. The Denmark mutation had pandemic potential, according to some scientists, while others called for more data. Danish officials warned that the mutation might hinder vaccine work. That’s what triggered the initial decision to slaughter the animals and quarantine a region of the country to prevent the new strain from circulating.

The worries have subsided since the initial mink panic, but various countries have reported mink coronavirus infections this year. Besides Denmark, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and Italy, Greece also had mink infections. And COVID-19 has been moving through more mink farms in the US as well.

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A Statesman Journal report says that an Oregon mink farm reported a COVID-19 outbreak among animals and workers.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture did not specify which county the farm or how many people were infected, citing privacy rules. But said the farm had about 12,000 animals. The report notes that eight of the 11 mink farms in Oregon are in Marion County.

ODA spokeswoman Andrea Cantu-Schomus said the farmer reported mink with symptoms on November 19th. “It is suspected that infected workers introduced SARS-CoV-2 to mink on the farm, and the virus then began to spread among the mink,” Cantu-Schomus said.

The department took samples from 10 of the sick animals, and all tested positive for COVID-19. The farm was placed on quarantine on November 23rd, with health officials unable to tell how many animals were infected. No animals or animal products can leave the farm while in quarantine. All workers were told to self-isolate.

Oregon has the fourth-largest mink industry in the US, after Wisconsin, Utah, and Michigan. All the other states reported coronavirus outbreaks in mink farms so far.

So far, there have been no mink deaths at the Oregon farm, but that could change as more animals get infected. The ones who were infected appear to have recovered. About 3,400 mink have died in October following the infection.

ODA will continue to test the mink 7-10 days after the resolution of symptoms and then continue testing every 14 days until no more infected animals are found.

The report notes that ODA officials said they had no plans to do inspections at farms absent symptoms, as of last week.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.