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Minks On Utah Farms Infected With Novel Coronavirus, First Cases In The U.S.

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Updated 4:07 p.m. MDT 8/17/2020

Five minks on two Utah farms were found to have been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the strain of coronavirus linked to COVID-19 in humans. It’s the first case of the virus in minks in the United States.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Veterinary Service Laboratory made the announcement Monday. Minks on both farms showed unusually high mortality rates among their population, according to the Utah Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

In 2018, Utah was the second largest producer of mink pelts in the U.S. behind Wisconsin. 

Dean Taylor, the state’s veterinarian, said they have a plan in place to slow the transmission of the animals. 

“Our approach right now is going to be a quarantine,” Taylor said. “We don't have any plans at this time to depopulate any of these mink farms. We don't feel like we have enough information to make that decision at this point.”

Taylor said they are working with the industry to put together best practices to ensure the infection is contained. As for other measures, he said officials from his office will be heading to the farms to instruct on biosecurity and provide assistance where needed.

State officials said the farms also reported cases of COVID-19 among their staff but cautioned there is no evidence that animals “play a significant role in transmitting the virus to humans.”

And because of that, officials consider the risk of animal to human transmission low. The virus was found in minks in the Netherlands earlier this year. Other animals in the U.S. have also tested positive for the novel coronavirus, including lions and tigers at a zoo in New York as well as pet cats and dogs. 

The USDA and Utah officials have planned a press conference Monday at 2 p.m. MDT to discuss the new findings.

Ross Terrell is an editor for KUER News. Follow him on Twitter @RossTerrell7

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