Coronavirus outbreak found in farm animals

Mink
Coronavirus graphics courtesy of MGN.

MEDFORD, Wis. (CNN) — A pandemic first- dozens of farm animals infected with COVID-19.

The virus has killed hundreds of mink on a Wisconsin ranch. The CDC is deploying a team there to make sure the outbreak is contained.

It began last week, when a local veterinarian noticed that something was off.

“There was an increase in death loss, which was more than usual,” said Kevin Hoffman with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture. “So that raised some bells and the animals were sent for testing and that’s how the positive was found.”

Dr. Keith Paulson is one of the medical professionals working with the UW Madison Veterinary Diagnostics Lab, who was on the lookout for COVID spreading from people to animals.

“There’s significant mortality in the mink,” explained Dr. Paulson. “There’s three people that work on the farm, they’ve seemed to recover, they had mild to moderate clinical signs.”

The case raises questions a lot closer to home. If mink can catch COVID, what about our pets? Can they give it to us?

“Dogs can carry it. We can find it in their oral-nasal secretions or sometimes in their fur in very low numbers. But we don’t consider them a significant risk,” said Dr. Paulson.

But mink and ferrets appear to be especially susceptible.

Dr. Paulson commented that “It’s extremely difficult to treat, and we need to make sure that we’re handling all of the animals, sick and well, in a humane manner.”

Veterinary medicine researchers are working on a coronavirus vaccine for mink, as well as one for dogs and cats.

But, they say the best way to keep the virus from spreading to animals, is to keep humans from getting it in the first place.

Categories: Coronavirus, US & World