An Oregon mink trapped in the wild tested positive for coronavirus this month, the Oregon Department of Agriculture announced on Wednesday.
The mink was captured on December 13 near an Oregon mink farm that is quarantined after a November COVID-19 outbreak. State and federal wildlife officials believe the recently arrested mink escaped the farm.
“There is no evidence that SARS-CoV-2 is circulating or has been established in the wild,” said ODA state veterinarian Dr. Ryan Scholz in a statement. “Of several [trapped] animals of different species were sampled, and all others were negative. Even so, we are taking this situation very seriously and continuing to do research and pitfalls near the farm. “
Lori Ann Burd, director of environmental health at the Center for Biological Diversity, does not find the state’s response reassuring.
“It is outrageous that an infected mink can even escape from a quarantined fur farm, putting an incalculable range of wild animals at risk of contracting the virus,” she said. “As much as I hope that this case of COVID-19 is limited to just a mink that they tested in the wild, we know that this virus is highly contagious and that a case is growing rapidly for many.
Infected mink is an unknown but growing problem in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic, which killed more than 300,000 Americans this year. In November, Denmark announced it would kill all 17 million mink raised there after it was discovered that 12 people had been infected with a mutant strain of COVID-19 that spread from mink to humans.
In a guest opinion column at The Oregonian / OregonLive earlier this month, Burd warned that infected mink on the quarantined Oregon farm could “not only spread the virus among wild mink, but also give rise to a viral strain mutant that threatens to compromise our newly produced vaccines. “
She said this week that Oregon regulators need to “stop pretending to have everything under control when nothing could be further from the truth.”
In November, 10 samples of mink on Oregon’s quarantined farm tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19 in humans. The mink is believed to have contracted the virus from humans. Some farm workers also tested positive for coronavirus. State officials have not revealed where the farm is located.
Oregon has 11 allowed mink farms with a total of almost 500,000 animals. Eight of Oregon’s mink farms are in Marion Country, two in Clatsop County and one in Linn County, reports Salem’s agricultural press Capital Press.
The ODA reported this week that the mink on Oregon’s quarantined farm “is now virus free.” State officials said the animals will undergo another round of testing before the farm’s restrictions are lifted.
The mink hunting season began on November 15 in Oregon.
– Douglas Perry