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Virus that causes COVID-19 found in local mink

Medford area ranch placed under quarantine by state veterinary officials

A Medford area ranch was placed under quarantine last week after testing of dead mink confirmed infection with the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans.

On Oct. 8, the National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) confirmed that dead mink at a Taylor County mink farm have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 infection, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans. This is the first confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection among Wisconsin’s mink population.

The NVSL confirmed the positive result after preliminary testing was conducted by the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (WVDL). The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) has quarantined all animals on the farm, meaning no animals or animal products may leave the premise.

Since this is an active investigation, no information about the farm or parties involved will be released. Although state officials note that there were several hundred animals involved.

DATCP is coordinating with the Department of Natural Resources, Taylor County Health Department, Department of Health Services (DHS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Department of Agriculture, WVDL, and a local veterinarian to provide assistance to the farm. The response includes appropriate carcass disposal, cleaning and disinfecting the animal areas, and protecting human and animal health.

Wisconsin is the second state with confirmed SARSCoV- 2 at a mink farm; Utah confirmed its first cases on August 17. There is currently no evidence that animals, including mink, play a significant role in spreading SARS-CoV-2 to humans. However, people infected with the virus can spread it to mink and other animals.

Medford is an important center in the state’s fur industry. According to the 2018 agricultural census DATCP estimates the state’s fur exports that year were worth nearly $227 million. Wisconsin provides about half of the estimated 3 million pelts sold in the country each year.

Activist groups were quick to chime in with concerns over the mink being able to transfer the virus to humans.

PETA president Ingrid Newkirk used the news to call on Wisconsin officials to “follow the lead of France, the Netherlands, and Poland by shutting down the state’s filthy fur farms now.”

People suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 are encouraged to avoid contact with pets and other animals while they are completing their home isolation to protect the animals from infection. DHS encourages everyone to follow these simple steps to stop the spread of COVID-19: wear a mask in public, keep 6 feet apart, wash your hands frequently, and stay home as much as possible.