First Covid case detected in wild animal

 US Department of Agriculture discovers virus in mink in Utah

Tom Batchelor
Tuesday 15 December 2020 12:05 GMT
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Dr Fauci says mink strain of coronavirus Mink strain 'should not pose risk to Covid-19 vaccines'
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The first known case of coronavirus in a wild animal – a mink – has been discovered.

The US Department of Agriculture said on Monday it had confirmed a case of the virus in the mammal.

Several other animals from different species were sampled and all tested negative, the USDA added.

In a statement, the USDA said there was no evidence that Covid was circulating in wild populations of mink surrounding the infected farms.

“The sequence of the viral genome obtained from the wild mink sample … was indistinguishable from those obtained from the farmed mink,” the alert to the International Society for Infectious Diseases said.

“Though escapees from fur farms are known to have become self-sustaining in some countries, so far, no Covid-19 cases have been reported from such animals.”

A group of mink take shelter in a hole in the ground

Covid-19 has killed more than 15,000 farmed mink in the United States since August, and last month Denmark embarked on a plan to kill its farmed mink population of 17 million after more than 200 people were diagnosed with a variant of coronavirus thought to have spread among fur farm animals that then infected humans.  

The USDA said in a notice that it confirmed the case in a “free-ranging, wild mink” in Utah as part of wildlife surveillance around infected farms.

Several animals from different wildlife species were sampled and all tested negative, the USDA added.

The agency said it notified the World Organisation for Animal Health of the recent case but said there is no evidence the virus has been widespread in wild populations around infected mink farms.

“To our knowledge, this is the first free-ranging, native wild animal confirmed with SARS-CoV-2,” the USDA said in the notice.

Also on Monday, Russia said it was close to completing clinical trials for a vaccine for domestic animals, including mink, and expected to begin the regulatory approval process in February.

The jab is aimed at rabbits, mink, cats and some other animals, with clinical trials due to end in January, Yulia Melano, an aide to the head of the agricultural safety watchdog, Rosselkhoznadzor, told Reuters.

Hundreds of human cases of the virus have been identified in Denmark with Covid variants associated with farmed minks. The discovery led the UK government to ban travel to Denmark.

Hancock: ‘We had to act quickly and decisively’ on Denmark travel ban

There are also fears that new strains linked to mink could end up compromising Covid vaccines, although this has not been proven. 

Several animals that have been in contact with infected humans, such as dogs, domestic cats, lions and tigers, have also tested positive for the disease. 

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