Thousands of farmed mink in Utah have died from Covid-19, forcing affected sites to quarantine as the state veterinarian investigates the outbreak.
Nearly 10,000 minks – creatures known for their luxurious, silky skins – died in the past two weeks at nine fur farms in Utah on Friday morning, state veterinarian Dean Taylor told NBC.
The virus was discovered among animals in the United States in early August, shortly after ranch workers tested positive, he said.
Taylor said that while research suggests that people with Covid-19 can infect animals, transmission is “considered low.”
“All the research indicates that there hasn’t been a spread from mink to humans,” Taylor said.
Like humans with Covid-19, the most common symptom for infected minks has been respiratory distress, he said.
“Minks exhibit open mouth breathing, discharge from the eyes and nose and are not sick for several days before they die,” Taylor said. “They usually die within the next day.”
Taylor added that the virus predominantly targeted older minks, “wiping out 50 percent of the breeding colonies,” leaving the younger ones unscathed.
Minks join a list of more than 50 animals, including cats, dogs, tigers and lions, that have contracted Covid-19 in the United States, according to data from the Department of Agriculture.
The creatures were found to be susceptible to the new coronavirus after outbreaks were detected in the Netherlands, according to the USDA.
The initial discovery was followed by outbreaks from Spain and Denmark, which resulted in countries killing more than 1 million farmed mink as a precaution, the Associated Press reported.
No animals have been culled as a result of the outbreak, Taylor said.
He said he was working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USDA, and Wildlife Services to provide more protective equipment and adequate training for mink farmers to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
“Once the final tests are complete, we will create a state plan to prevent this virus from spreading to multiple farms,” Taylor said. “It’s much easier to prevent it from happening, then to prevent it from happening all at once.”