It’s not every day that minks make the news, except for now, when minks seem to be making the news every day. And the news about minks hasn’t been positive, like they’re hosting a new talk show or coming out with a new song entitled, “Love Minks.” No, the news about minks has been positive in a bad way, a very bad way. Covid-19 coronavirus outbreaks have been occurring on mink farms. And on Friday, the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) announced that a mink farm in Oregon is the latest one in the U.S. to have such an outbreak.
Indeed, the USDA National Veterinary Service Laboratory (NVSL) has confirmed that all 10 samples submitted by the ODA from the Oregon farm were indeed positive for SARS-CoV-2. As a result, the entire farm is under quarantine or isolation. No one is leaving the farm to mix with others anytime soon, whether they’ve got four legs or two.
That’s because humans on the farm have tested positive for the virus as well. The ODA is working with the farm to make sure that everyone has personal protective equipment (PPE) and understands and practices Covid-19 precautions such as good hand washing and social distancing. They are emphasizing the need to follow the Response and Containment Guidelines for Managing Farmed Mink and other Farmed Mustelids with SARS-CoV-2 put forth by the USDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Mustelid may sound like what you hear when someone says, “must put down the toilet bowl lid” or “must not bedazzle your eyelid” very quickly. But mustelids are a family of carnivorous mammals that include weasels, martens, skunks, badgers, otters, and minks.
The guidelines include recommendations such as farm operators regularly screening themselves, workers, and visitors for Covid-19 and practicing enhanced biosecurity. Enhanced biosecurity includes keeping track of all visitors, using fences, gates, and other barriers to keep others from entering the farm, and posting signage to instruct visitors to remain in their vehicles until farm personnel can assist them. The guidelines tell farmers to make sure that any new minks test negative for SARS-Cov2 and are kept separate for at least 21 days before joining the main herd.
The guidelines also have a section entitled “Teach Producers Not to Haul Disease Home.” In general, hauling disease home is a bad idea. “Honey, I got some toilet paper, doughnuts, and some hot dogs and also hauled some disease home,” is not what you want to hear when your significant other returns from the market. The section urges farmers to clean and disinfect everything, including car and truck tires, caging, and equipment, before returning to the farm from anywhere outside.
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Oregon isn’t the first state in the U.S. to have minks test positive for the SARS-CoV2. No, that list already includes Utah, Michigan, and Wisconsin. The SARS-CoV2 has now appeared in minks in seven different countries: the Netherlands, Denmark, Italy, Sweden, Spain, and the United States. The mink farm outbreaks have led to massive culls of minks on the farms to prevent further spread of the virus, especially since a new mutated version of the SARS-CoV2 was found to be present among minks. The culls in turn led to the gruesome prospect of having to bury thousands of mink carcasses. Then, the following happened in Denmark:
So minks who were eventually going to get killed for their fur were instead killed earlier and buried, only to seemingly arise from their graves afterwards. This raised concerns that these “mink zombies” could end up transmitting the Covid-19 coronavirus after their death. Authorities in Denmark then has reassure citizens that the “zombies” did not pose a risk, as Reuters reported. All in 2020, folks.
Nevertheless, the CDC and USDA-APHIS still considers the risk of animals, such as minks, spreading SARS-CoV-2 to humans to be low. But stay tuned as the situation continues to evolve.
The Covid-19 coronavirus outbreaks on mink farms have made some on social media wonder why there even are mink farms, since mink coats aren’t exactly essential products:
The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has uncovered many issues in society that have needed closer looks and looks like mink farms are one of them. After all, if you aren’t careful, squeezing animals together in tight quarters does raise the risk of infectious disease transmission and ultimately could put humans at greater risk. The question then is all fur what.