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article imageUSDA confirms first known case of coronavirus in a wild animal

By Karen Graham     Dec 15, 2020 in Science
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said on Monday that it confirmed the first known case of the coronavirus in a wild animal, a mink. The case was found during routine surveillance of the wildlife around infected farms in Utah.
The discovery of the virus in a wild animal has raised concerns about outbreaks in farmed- raised minks, and this has some national groups raising alarms. As it is, the coronavirus has killed some 15,000 farmed mink in the United States since August, according to Reuters.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Dean Taylor, the state veterinarian, said infections likely were spread from workers at the mink farms to the animals, with no sign so far that the animals are spreading it to humans. Several workers at the Utah mink farms tested positive for COVID-19, including some who had no symptoms.
Global health officials are still investigating the potential risk these animals pose to humans after an outbreak of the virus in farmed minks in Denmark resulted in the government announcing a nationwide cull of its 15 to 17 million minks in early November, saying they could carry a mutated variant of the virus that could render any future vaccine for humans less effective.
There have been a number of outbreaks of COVID-19 in mink farms in the U.S. and other countries, including the Netherlands, Italy, Sweden, Spain. In the U.S., mink farms in three states: Utah, Michigan, and Wisconsin have had outbreaks of the virus. Other species of animals within the United States have also tested positive for SARS-CoV-2.
The USDA said it notified the World Organization for Animal Health of the recent case but said there is no evidence the virus has been widespread in wild populations around infected mink farms. The agency routinely conducts wildlife surveillance around infected farms.
“To our knowledge, this is the 1st free-ranging, native wild animal confirmed with SARS-CoV-2,” the USDA said in the notice. The coronavirus has been found in dogs, cats, tigers, and lions in the U.S. A small number of animals worldwide have been reported to be infected with SARS-CoV-2, mostly after close contact with people with COVID-19.
One group raising concerns is the Humane Society of the United States. In a blog post about the USDA findings in Utah, Kitty Block, president and CEO wrote, it provides “yet another pressing reason why the United States needs to end all mink fur farming without further delay."
More about coronavirus, Wild animal, USDA confirmation, Utah mink, sarscov2
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