Covid-19 at Wisconsin mink farming industry
Jan 30, 2021: Last October, not the usual flu virus was seen in the mink at two Wisconsin mink farms located in Taylor County. Mink of all ages and fur coat colors stopped eating, followed by coughing, sneezing, tiredness (lethargy), and then labored breathing.
For the next few days hundreds of mink died, in the end, totaling about 5,500 animals. Within a week, after ranchers thought that most of the mink were going to die, the contagion suddenly stopped. Veteran mink expert, Hugh Hildebrandt stated: “... the next morning.....it’s just stopped. They all start eating. They eat more than they ever did before.”
So far there is no evidence in the US, that infected mink can transfer the virus to humans. Even so, there is concern among scientists that mink could harbor a variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans. As a result, the state added mink farm-workers to the category of residents next in line for vaccination against Covid, along with teachers, child-care workers and grocery store employees.
In August 2020, Utah was the first state in the US to see farmed mink infected with the virus. This resulted in a nationwide search for infected wildlife. In mid-December a wild mink trapped near a Utah mink farm was confirmed to have the virus. “To our knowledge, this is the first free-ranging, native wild animal confirmed with SARS-CoV-2,” said Thomas DeLiberto and Susan Shriner of the USDA’s Animal and Plant Inspection Service. Soon after that, two more mink — both Oregon farm escapees — also tested positive.
Are mink better at pandemics than humans? Experts state that wild mink “socially distance very well.”