Not surprisingly, COVID-19 has been identified on a mink farm in British Columbia, Canada, in the midst of Canada’s 2nd wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s important note that so far, the virus has only been found in people on the farm, not in the mink. Eight farm workers were reportedly diagnosed with COVID-19 over the weekend, so now testing of the mink is underway. With 8 infected people at the facility, it’s pretty likely that the mink are infected as well, since they are quite susceptible to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, but we’ll need to wait for the test results later this week. If there are a few infected mink on the farm, that can become lots of infected mink pretty quickly.
This is a breaking story so more information will no doubt roll out over the next few days.
The big questions are:
Have the mink been infected with SARS-CoV-2?
- We’ll know soon enough.
Has there been any mink-to-human transmission of SARS-CoV-2?
- That’s a bit harder to discern, especially if all of the infected workers have had contact with each other. If the virus is detected in mink, sequence analysis and comparison of the strains in the mink versus the workers will be part of the picture.
Has/will the SARS-CoV-2 virus mutate in the mink (as was seen in Denmark)?
- We’re still unsure about how much of a risk virus mutation is. Mink farms have large numbers of susceptible animals, making them good places for mutations to occur. Virus mutations are random events, so they may be good or bad. We’re worried about mutations that negatively impact control measures (like vaccination) or that could make the virus more transmissible or illness more severe IF the mutated strains spill back into people. As above, sequence analysis will be used to look for evidence of significant mutations.
Have other animals on or around the farm been infected with SARS-CoV-2?
- Testing of any other animals on the farm (e.g. cats) and wildlife on the property will likely follow if the mink are found to be infected.