• Five minks died at Utah farms
  • They tested positive for COVID-19
  • There is no indication or proof of any mink-to-human transmission of coronavirus

Five minks from two Utah farms were found positive for coronavirus, marking the first confirmed case of infection in the species in the U.S.

Utah is one of the largest mink producers in the country and both farms belong to some of the state's bigger mink farms. The tests were carried out at the Washington State University after abnormally large numbers of minks in different Utah farms died, Reuters News reported.

Raised in many U.S. states for its fur, the animal is among those vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Recently, minks infected with the virus were discovered on four of the 155 mink farms located in the Netherlands.

The coronavirus-positive Utah minks are the first of such species to carry the deadly bug but they are not the first animals in the state to test positive for SARS-CoV-2. The USDA revealed that two dogs and four cats tested positive for coronavirus on July 22.

According to Dr. Dean Taylor, a veterinarian from the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, both farms observed a significant increase in deaths among their mink populations. The cases of mink deaths prompted state officials to test the animals for the presence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans.

American mink
American mink jandenouden/Pixabay

The veterinarian did not identify the two farms affected or their exact location in the state, but he did say that both are large farms.

"We've been in contact with the industry and we're working with them to put together best practices, so they can avoid this," Taylor said.

He added that they now know mink is among the more vulnerable species and expects farm officials are taking measures to protect their mink population, as well as to prevent the virus from spreading further.

The USDA's findings add to the growing list of species known to carry the SARS-CoV-2 virus, with some of the animals living in captivity in zoos. Other species include tigers, cats, lions, and domestic pets like dogs, the federal department revealed.

The federal department is still at a loss as to how the Utah minks got the infection, although they revealed that there were people with COVID-19 who did come into contact with the minks long before they found they were coronavirus positive. However, there is no indication or proof of any mink-to-human transmission. USDA officials added there is little to no evidence of any animal to human coronavirus transmission in the state of Utah or in the U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that other species that appear susceptible to the virus include ferrets, primates, and golden Syrian hamsters. Based on studies, pigs, ducks, chickens, and mice, on the other hand, were among the animals that "do not appear" to be infected by a coronavirus.