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Novel Coronavirus Detected In A Wild Mink Near Infected Utah Fur Farm

A photo of an American mink in grass.
In November, the state veterinarian reported that nearly 11,000 minks in Utah fur farms had died from the coronavirus.

A wild mink in Utah has tested positive for the coronavirus, and it’s believed to be the first case confirmed in a free-ranging native animal, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

Since August, Utah has been battling outbreaks of COVID-19 in mink farms. State veterinarian Dean Taylor said in November nearly 11,000 of them have died from the disease.

Now, the mink found near an infected farm is the first wild animal confirmed to have SARS-CoV-2, which is the virus that causes the disease known as COVID-19. The wild mink was found while federal officials were surveying the area around these farms for the virus.

Lori Ann Burd, the environmental health director for the Center for Biological Diversity, said the prospect of this virus spreading in the wild is terrifying.

“We really need to be having a dialogue about the threat that these facilities are posing to public health and wildlife and the environment,” she said. “We know these are breeding grounds for contagious diseases and now we're seeing this nightmare scenario unfold.”

The USDA said there is currently no evidence that the coronavirus is circulating among wild populations near infected farms. Different animal species were also sampled and tested negative.

Taylor was not available for comment on this latest development. But back in November, he said COVID-19 had been confirmed at nine mink ranching sites across three counties, or a quarter of all fur farms in Utah.

Lexi is KUER's Southwest Bureau reporter
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