The US states of Utah, Wisconsin and Michigan – where the coronavirus has killed mink – have said they do not plan to slaughter the animals and are monitoring the situation in Denmark.
“We believe that quarantining affected mink farms in addition to the implementation of strict biosecurity measures will help control SARS-CoV-2 in these locations,” the US Department of Justice told Reuters on Tuesday. Agriculture.
The USDA said it was working with the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state officials and the mink industry to test and monitor infected farms.
The United States has 359,850 mink raised to produce babies, called kits, and produced 2.7 million skins last year. Wisconsin is the largest mink producing state, followed by Utah.
Sick mink in Wisconsin and Utah have been exposed to people with probable or confirmed cases of COVID-19, the USDA said. In Michigan, it is still not known whether the mink were infected by humans, according to the agency.
In Utah, the first U.S. state to confirm mink infections in August, about 10,700 mink have died on nine farms, said Dean Taylor, state veterinarian.
“Of the nine, everything still suggests a one-way ticket from people to mink,” he said. Coronavirus tests have been carried out on dying and random mink on affected farms, Taylor said. Like people, some mink are asymptomatic or mildly affected, he said.
The CDC said it supports state investigations into sick mink, including testing on animals and people.
“These investigations will help us learn more about the dynamics of transmission between mink, other animals around farms, and humans,” the CDC said. “Currently, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in the spread of SARS-CoV-2 to humans.”
The coronavirus is believed to have first passed from animals to humans in China, possibly via bats or another animal at a food market in Wuhan, although many questions remain.
In Wisconsin, about 5,000 mink died on two farms, state veterinarian Darlene Konkle said.
A farm compost the dead mink to dispose of carcasses without spreading the virus, Konkle said. Authorities are working with the second farm to determine how to dispose of the mink, and the dead animals are being kept in a metal container in the meantime, she said.
“They’re basically in a metal container, a roll-off type container, which is sealed at this point,” Konkle said.
Michigan refused to disclose the number of dead mink, citing confidentiality rules.
U.S. officials are urging farmers to wear protective gear such as masks and gloves when handling mink to avoid infecting the animals.
State officials said they were working with the USDA to determine whether farmers could sell the infected mink skins. The hides are used to make fur coats and other items.
“It is our desire and certainly the desire of the owners to be able to use these skins,” Konkle said.
The coronavirus has also infected cats, dogs, a lion and a tiger, according to the USDA. Experts say mink appear to be the most sensitive animals to date.
“Everything we learn about mink will help understand the virus across species,” Taylor said. “This is going to give us a better response to people to stop this pandemic.”