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Utah mink becomes first wild animal in US to test positive for coronavirus

Utah mink becomes first wild animal in US to test positive for coronavirus
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A wild mink captured in Utah has tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the first wild animal in the U.S. to do so, officials said Monday.

Reuters reported that a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) notice indicated that a “free-ranging, wild mink” that later tested positive for the coronavirus was captured near a mink farm in Utah where cases of the virus have been reported among the resident population. USDA officials have been conducting tests near farms with confirmed infections to determine if the virus can spread to nearby wildlife.

“To our knowledge, this is the 1st free-ranging, native wild animal confirmed with SARS-CoV-2,” the USDA reportedly said, adding that the World Organisation for Animal Health had been notified of the discovery.

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More than 15,000 farmed mink in the U.S. have died from the virus so far this year, and the species has been the target of culls by European authorities over similar concerns.

Denmark alone killed more than 17 million mink after concerns arose that the animal was contracting the virus from humans, causing it to undergo mutation before reinfecting people. The country's agriculture minister stepped down as a result of criticism over the cull, which in some cases included mink carcasses being improperly buried in mass graves that later became exposed.

COVID-19 cases in the U.S. continue to soar even as the first doses of a vaccine became available this week; more than 16 million infections have been reported in the U.S. since the pandemic began and more than 300,000 people have died.