Story at a glance

  • The USDA has been carrying out screenings of species around mink farms in Utah, Michigan and Wisconsin for several months over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic to determine if the virus has spread to nearby wildlife.
  • A mink found in the immediate vicinity of one of the affected farms is the only wild animal caught in the area to test positive.
  • “To our knowledge, this is the 1st free-ranging, native wild animal confirmed with SARS-CoV-2,” USDA officials wrote.

The first known case of coronavirus in a wild animal in the U.S. has been reported in Utah, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). 

USDA officials said a wild mink in Utah tested positive for the coronavirus during surveillance of wildlife around mink farms that have experienced outbreaks. The USDA has been carrying out screening of species around mink farms in Utah, Michigan and Wisconsin for several months over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic to determine if the virus has spread to nearby wildlife. 


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The National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) said the viral genome taken from the wild mink was indistinguishable from that in infected mink on farms around the state. 

“The [NVSL] has confirmed SARS-CoV-2 by real time RT-PCR and sequencing of a nasal swab collected from a free-ranging, wild mink sampled in Utah,” USDA officials wrote

“To our knowledge, this is the 1st free-ranging, native wild animal confirmed with SARS-CoV-2.” 

The mink was found in the immediate vicinity of one of the affected farms and is the only wild animal caught in the area to test positive. 

“There is currently no evidence that SARS-CoV-2 is circulating or has been established in wild populations surrounding the infected mink farms,” the USDA wrote. 

Mink farms have been particularly hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak. In Denmark and other parts of Europe, millions of mink on farms around the country have been culled following widespread outbreaks. 

The virus has been found in other captive wild animals, including tigers, lions and snow leopards, as well as in dogs and cats. 


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Published on Dec 15, 2020