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A Danish report shows that a mutation in COVID-1

9 has been found in 12 people in the northern part of the country who were infected with mink.

Wochit

SALEM, Malm. – Environmental groups raise alarms following reports of COVID-19 outbreaks in farmed mink in the US and of a mutant COVID-19 strain that spreads from mink to humans in Denmark.

The nation’s largest farmed mink industries are found in Wisconsin, Utah and Michigan. And per. On November 4, 11 mink farms in the three states had reported COVID-19 outbreaks.

In Wisconsin, about 3,400 farmed mink have died over the past month after contracting the virus. And in Utah, about 10,000 mink have died since August.

Oregon has the country’s fourth largest farmed mink industry with 11 licensed mink productions, but state officials say there is no reason to worry.

“Currently, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in the spread of SARS-CoV-2 to humans,” said Andrea Cantu-Schomus, communications director for the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

“In addition, so far there have been no reports of mink deaths in Oregon,” she said, adding that the state will not conduct inspections or tests in response to outbreaks elsewhere.

COVID-19 is a reportable disease in Oregon. But that does not apply to fur producers because they cannot legally diagnose a disease, Cantu-Schomus said. However, veterinarians must report it.

Denmark kills 17 million mink

In early November, Denmark announced that it would kill all 17 million mink bred there after the Danish Minister of Health confirmed that 12 people had been infected with a mutated strain of COVID-19 that had spread. from mink to humans.

Other animals have received the virus from humans, but it is thought to be the first time humans have caught it from an animal.

Danish authorities said they feared the mutated strain could undermine the effect of a COVID-19 vaccine.

More: Northern Denmark in lockdown after mutated coronavirus infects mink, which is bred after fur

In response, the World Health Organization has advised all countries to improve the monitoring of COVID-19 on mink farms.

In addition to Denmark and the United States, COVID-19 infections have been reported in farmed mink in the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Italy and Greece, according to the WHO.

This week, Poland began testing mink for coronavirus.

Seeking action in Oregon

On November 6, the Center for Biological Diversity sent a letter to officials at the Oregon Department of Agriculture and the Oregon Health Authority asking them to immediately send inspectors to all mink farms to make sure they do not harm public health.

“We do not want to spread the word; however, we are deeply concerned that these facilities may consciously or unconsciously contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in the state or may even house or come to house new mutations of COVID-19, such as the one discovered in Denmark, “wrote the group .

Over the past few weeks, national animal rights groups Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Human Economy have sent letters to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urging them to immediately quarantine mink farms across the country, stopping breeding programs. and implement a buy-out to phase out mink farms.

They also wrote to Oregon Gov. Kate Brown urging her to impose a state quarantine and halt breeding programs and to coordinate with federal agencies on a buy-out.

Brown’s office did not respond to a request for comment from the Statesman Journal, part of the United States TODAY Network.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture and the Oregon Health Authority said they are working together to work out answers. They do not plan to take any of the groups’ recommendations, but explain what they are doing, according to Cantu-Schomus.

CDC guidelines recommend against testing unless there are consistent symptoms on a mink farm with a potential exposure history. “Because Oregon has not had any mortality reports, ODA is not currently testing,” Cantu-Schomus said.

“Rather, ODA and the state veterinarian have been involved in the Oregon mink industry, which provides information on biosafety as well as specific steps to be taken to prevent the introduction of SARS-CoV-2 in mink farms,” ​​she said.

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‘Taking the necessary steps’

The Oregon-based Fur Commission USA is a national nonprofit that represents mink farmers.

Michael Whelan, its CEO, denied a request for an interview from the Statesman Journal.

In a written statement, he accused animal rights organizations of exploiting the situation to advance their political agendas.

“Animal welfare is the whole farmer’s livelihood. “We are taking the necessary steps, as recommended by the CDC, the USDA and the respective state veterinarians, to protect workers and animals from this virus,” Whelan wrote.

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Follow Tracy Loew on Twitter at @Tracy_Loew.

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