Wild Mink Found Near Utah Fur Farm Is the First Wild Animal to Test Positive for COVID-19

After thousands of minks at fur farms in Wisconsin, Michigan and Utah died due a series of coronavirus outbreaks in October, the United States Department of Agriculture has found the first known case of COVID-19 in a non-captive wild animal: a Utah mink.

The USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratories released an alert on Saturday saying the free-range mink had tested positive in their screenings of wildlife around fur farms with coronavirus outbreaks.

Utah state veterinarian Dean Taylor told National Geographic that the wild mink was trapped in the "immediate vicinity of one of the affected farms."

"To our knowledge, this is the 1st free-ranging, native wild animal confirmed with SARS-CoV-2," the USDA wrote. "There is currently no evidence that SARS-CoV-2 is circulating or has been established in wild populations surrounding the infected mink farms. Several animals from different wildlife species were sampled, but all others tested negative."

They also added that the strain of the virus in the positive wild mink is "indistinguishable" from the strain obtained from the infected farmed minks.

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

COVID-19 has been found in more than 50 types of captive animals within the U.S. — including tigers, lions, cats, and dogs — according to the USDA.

Minks were first discovered to be susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 in April when farms in the Netherlands suffered several outbreaks in their mink populations, the Associated Press reported. Outbreaks among minks in Denmark and Spain have since been detected.

"Outbreaks at mink farms in Europe and other areas have shown the captive mink to be susceptible to SARS-CoV-2, and it is not unexpected that wild mink would also be susceptible to the virus," USDA spokesperson Lyndsay Cole told National Geographic. "This finding demonstrates both the importance of continuing surveillance around infected mink farms and of taking measures to prevent the spread of the virus to wildlife."

Last week, Canada reported its first farmed mink outbreak in British Columbia. Meanwhile, in Utah, nearly 10,000 minks have died of COVID-19 at nine different fur farms, NBC News previously reported.

For those worried about their pets amid the pandemic, Taylor told National Geographic that owners should "treat them the same as people."

"Distance with them in your own homes if someone is sick in the household," he said.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from the WHO and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.

Source: Read Full Article