Washington, D.C., August 17, 2020 -- The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) today announced the first confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans) in mink at two farms in Utah. These are the first confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 in mink in the United States. The affected farms also reported positive cases of COVID-19 in people who had contact with the mink.
After unusually large numbers of mink died at the farms, the Utah Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory completed necropsies on several of the affected animals. Samples were forwarded and tested presumptive positive for SARS-CoV-2 at the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory. Both laboratories are members of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network. The presumptive positive samples were then sent to NVSL for confirmatory testing.
Mink were known to be susceptible to SARS-CoV-2, as the virus was discovered in mink on multiple farms in the Netherlands. Those affected farms also experienced an increase in mink deaths. Affected mink farms have also been identified in Spain and Denmark. USDA has closely monitored these outbreaks and recently issued a document containing guidance for farmed mink in the United States.
There is currently no evidence that animals, including mink, play a significant role in spreading the virus to humans. Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading SARS-CoV-2 to people is considered to be low. More studies are needed to understand how different species may be affected by the virus that causes COVID-19, and whether animals may play a role in the spread of the virus.
NVSL serves as an international reference laboratory and provides expertise and guidance on diagnostic techniques, as well as confirmatory testing for foreign and emerging animal diseases. Such testing is required for certain animal diseases in the U.S. in order to comply with national and international reporting procedures. The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) considers SARS-CoV-2 an emerging disease, and therefore USDA must report confirmed U.S. animal infections to the OIE.
USDA announces cases of confirmed SARS-CoV-2 in animals each time it is found in a new species. All confirmed cases in animals in the United States are posted at https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/sa_one_health/sars-cov-2-animals-us.
People with COVID-19 can spread the virus to animals during close contact. It is important for people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 to avoid contact with pets and other animals to protect them from possible infection.
For more information about COVID-19 and animals and recommendations for animal owners, visit CDC’s COVID-19 and Animals page at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/animals.html.