At least 8,000 mink have died of infection from the coronavirus on farms in Utah. State agriculture authorities in Wisconsin and Michigan announced October 8th and 9th, respectively, that the virus had killed mink on one farm in each state. The announcement also said that the farms had confirmed infections among people who worked at those locations and had contact with the animals. As of early October, mink farms in Denmark, the Netherlands, and Spain also reported outbreaks. Health authorities in Denmark planned to kill about 17 million minks because of coronavirus infections confirmed at farms. In Utah, the impacted farms have been burying the whole carcasses of affected minks.

Investigations so far have indicated workers at the farms develop COVID, and soon afterwards, the minks fall ill. In the Netherlands, at least two workers on mink farms likely spread the virus to the animals.

We are still learning about the coronavirus and its effect on animals, but there is currently no evidence that animals, including mink or other mustelids, play a significant role in spreading the virus to humans, officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services announced. There have been no cases of the coronavirus being transferred from mink to man. It is transferable from mink to mink and from man to mink.

But, the infections have been killing more than 40 percent of the mink on the farms, yet the death rates remain low for younger mink. Infection seems to be deadlier among older mink. Mink belong to the mustelid family of animals. No other mustelids have been shown to be affected by the coronavirus.

Dr. Karsten Fostvedt is a veterinarian at St. Francis Pet Clinic in Ketchum.

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