Oregon state officials confirmed that a mink infected with coronavirus escaped from a farm that was quarantined in November following an outbreak that affected both mink and humans.
The runaway mink was caught December 13, 2020, by a team of state biologists, according to the Oregon Department of Agriculture, and tested positive for low levels of the virus just over a week later.
Five opossums and two cats were also captured around the same time as the mink. None of the other animals tested positive for COVID-19.
“There is no evidence that SARS-CoV-2 is circulating or has been established in the wild,” said Dr. Ryan Scholz, a veterinarian for the Oregon Department of Agriculture, in a statement.
“Still, we are taking this situation very seriously and continuing to survey and trap near the farm.”
State officials declined to disclose the farm’s location, citing medical privacy.
Animal welfare experts warn that farm-raised mink pose “serious concerns about disease transmission and safety protocols.”
The outbreak may affect wildlife populations, said Jonathan Evans, a legal director and attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, and may also “pose new risks” for more COVID-19 mutations.
“With a nationwide surge in COVID-19, Oregon officials must do more to reduce and control disease outbreaks from factory farms by requiring increased safety protocols for fur farms and better reporting about where these disease outbreaks are occurring,” he said in a statement to USA TODAY.
In Denmark, where a mink outbreak was first reported, the mass culling of the nation’s entire population of mink, was met with scrutiny and horror, resulting in mink “popping up” from shallow graves. A government official later resigned following his handling of the situation.
Fortunately, officials confirmed the mink at the Oregonfarm has recovered from the November outbreak. Guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration mandates one more round of testing before the farm is no longer under lockdown.