This Animal Just Tested Positive for Coronavirus in the U.S.
It's the latest in a list of animals that have tested positive for the virus, including cats and dogs.
While the number of coronavirus cases is staggering—5.4 million in the U.S. alone—humans aren't the only ones affected by the disease. Since the pandemic began, there have been numerous reports of animals contracting the virus, from tigers at the Bronx Zoo to household pets, like cats and dogs. And now, a new animal has tested positive for COVID in the United States: minks.
According to an August 17 report from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), COVID-positive minks have been discovered on two separate farms in Utah. The USDA reports that the farms had experienced unusually high numbers of mink deaths, prompting them to test livestock for the virus.
Minks have previously tested positive for coronavirus outside of the United States, as well—as of June, the virus had infected 12 mink farms in the Netherlands, and an outbreak had been reported at a mink farm in Spain.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the dogs and cats that have tested positive for coronavirus stateside were likely infected by humans, and there's been no definitive evidence suggesting that the reverse is possible. But some infectious disease experts say that minks may be capable of passing COVID on to humans.
In a June 2020 paper published in Eurosurveillance, the authors, who studied the Dutch coronavirus outbreak in minks, concluded that one worker on one of the affected farms was likely infected by the animals.
In a statement to The Washington Post, Richard Ostfeld, a researcher at New York's Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies, said that the indication of mink-to-human transmission is worrisome. "We definitely need to be concerned with the potential for domesticated animals that are infected to pass on their infection to us," he said.
However, with no known stateside cases of mink-to-human coronavirus transmission yet, U.S. officials have been hesitant to call the animals a threat. "There is currently no evidence that animals, including mink, play a significant role in spreading the virus to humans," writes the USDA. They note that, generally speaking, the risk of animals transmitting the coronavirus to humans "considered to be low." And for more on how to stave off the virus, check out Dr. Fauci Is Begging You to Do This "As Much As You Possibly Can" Right Now.