At least 12,000 mink dead as coronavirus spreads among fur farms in Utah and Wisconsin

Thousands of minks raised on fur farms in Utah and Wisconsin have now died from Covid-19 (AP).
Thousands of minks raised on fur farms in Utah and Wisconsin have died from coronavirus after scientists believe the virus was introduced into animals by humans.
The outbreak was first noticed in Utah in August. Ten thousand minks have now died on fur farms in Utah, a spokesman for the Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) in Utah told CBS News on Friday.
This week, Wisconsin, the largest fur-producing state, became the second state to confirm a Covid-19 outbreak in the mink population, affecting one farm so far.
Two thousand minks in one farm - which is now under quarantine - have died, the broadcaster reported.
The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) in Wisconsin announced that it has taken new measures to "dispose, clean and disinfect animal areas and protect human and animal health."
On Wednesday, a third state, Michigan, confirmed that the mink had also tested positive there.
Wisconsin has the largest mink fur farm in the United States. Professor Tim Blackburn / UCL
Scientists believe that humans passed the virus on to animals, not the other way around.
This week, researchers from University College London (UCL) concluded that 26 animals, including farm animals such as pigs, horses and sheep, may be susceptible to infection with coronavirus and "may warrant further investigation and possible surveillance".
UCL's Professor Christine Orengo of Structural and Molecular Biology and lead author of the study said, “We wanted to look beyond the animals we studied to see which animals are at risk of infection and warrant further research and possible surveillance.
"The animals we have identified are potentially at risk of outbreaks that threaten endangered species or affect farmers' livelihoods."
She pointed to cases of coronavirus outbreaks in mink farms where some animals may act as "reservoirs" for Covid-19 and potentially re-infect people.
The extent of the outbreak in mink is unclear as the fur farms say it is impossible to test every single animal.
Fur Commission USA, which represents mink farmers, states that there are around 275 mink farms in 23 states that produce about three million pelts annually, valued at more than $ 300 million.
Fur from dead, infected mink is still used commercially, and Fur Commission USA told the AP that the fur will be processed to remove all traces of the virus before it is used on clothing.
As with humans, younger minks are less likely to contract the virus, and most deaths occur in older minks between the ages of one and four.
Difficulty breathing is a common symptom, but the virus progresses extremely quickly and kills most infected mink the next day.
Researchers have reported that minks are particularly susceptible to the virus because of a specific protein in their lungs.
The Netherlands extended their deadline for ending mink farming by three years to prevent future outbreaks and killed thousands of animals earlier this year to stop the spread. Spain followed a similar path and last week Denmark announced that a million mink would be killed to stop the animal outbreak there.
The United States Humane Society has described the US government's inaction as "unacceptable".
"Fur farms are miserable places for wild animals like mink," said Kitty Block, president and CEO of the US Humane Society.
"Now that the coronavirus outbreak is killing animals by the thousands, the suffering has only intensified.
"The only way to end the dual problems of pandemic outbreaks on fur farms and the suffering of the fur farm is to shut down that industry for good."
Continue reading
Scientists are testing whether the coronavirus can be transmitted from minks to humans
"Considerable risk" of people transmitting Covid-19 to wild animals
Calls to end the fur trade after mink infected with Covid-19

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