A mink trapped in the wild near an Oregon mink farm tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA). The mink in question was captured close to the mink farm on December 13. The mink farm has been in quarantine since November when some animals and workers at the farm tested positive for the virus. Local authorities stated that it is possible that the mink escaped from the farm, OregonLive reports.
“We have found no evidence that the virus is available or spreading in the wild,” Dr. Ryan Scholz, an ODA veterinarian stated. “Many of the animals in captivity have been tested and the department is closely observing the situation and will keep trapping animals around the farm for testing.”
Lori Ann Burd, an environmental director at the Center for Biological Diversity has criticized the state’s response to the situation.
“It is quite impossible to believe that an infected animal escaped a farm that is under quarantine, placing a vast number of animals in the wild at risk of getting infected with the coronavirus,” Burd said. “I sincerely hope the mink has not passed it to other animals in the wild, but we are all aware of how contagious the virus is, one case can become hundreds in little time.”
Not many people pay attention to the risks that infected mink pose in the seemingly unending struggle to end the COVID-19 pandemic which started in China late last year and has killed over 300,000 Americans. Denmark is currently on a mission to cull all of its 17 million mink after a new strain of the coronavirus was found in mink farms. According to experts, humans can contract the new strain from animals.
Burd had earlier warned that not only could the new coronavirus strain spread to animals in the wild, it could also render COVID-19 vaccines less effective. She told state regulators this week, that they need to stop acting as if they can handle the situation when their responses show “something that could not be further from the truth.”
In November, 10 animals at the farm tested positive for COVID-19. Local authorities believe that the animals contracted the disease from workers at the farm some of whom also tested positive for the infectious disease. The officials have not released the location of the farm.
In total, Oregon has 11 licensed mink farms with almost 500,000 animals. The department of Agriculture stated earlier during the week that the animals at the quarantined farm “are now clear of the virus”, but there would be a final round of testing before the quarantine is ended.