COVID-19 found in Dutch fur farms, local mink farmers taking notice

More than 85 percent of pelts used in the world’s fur trade comes from small, family-run farms. There are approximately 245 mink farms in the US.

FRANKLIN,ID – Two mink farms in the Netherlands recently reported they found coronavirus in their animals.

Today, Utah leads the country in mink farms and Idaho is right behind them. Wisconsin produces the largest number of mink in the country.

Carola Schouten, the Dutch Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, announced confirmed cases of COVID-19 in mink on April 26.

It appears that the mink became infected from farm workers, a case of human-to-animal transmission.

As a precaution, people have been advised not to walk or ride a bike within 400 meters of the two farms. The Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment has said although the risk of animal-to-human infection is low, “people who work in mink farming have to be careful.”

Cache Valley and Franklin County, Idaho have a number of mink farmers that are taking notice.

Challis Hobbs from Preston is a mink buyer for SAGA Furs. He was asked to refer any questions about COVID-19 to mink expert Charlie Ross for official comments.

Lew Palmer of Preston feeds his mink in one of his sheds in 2018.

Charlie Ross general manager of SAGA Furs said since the discovery of the COVID-19 infected mink, his company has done extensive testing in the United States, Canada and around the world and have not found the virus anywhere else.

“Some of the workers who had the virus went to work and infected the mink,” Ross said. “Everyone in the industry now knows if a worker is sick, they need to stay home.”

He said as far as he knows only a few animals were diagnosed with the virus in the Netherlands. They have also found the virus in lions and tigers in zoos.

“We are pretty confident the ranches in Utah, Idaho and the rest of America and Canada are safe from the virus,” he said. “We don’t know right now how the virus will affect the mink or for how long.”

Jackson Hobbs holds one of the mink they raise on their Franklin farm in 2019.

The Dutch government announced a reporting requirement for mink farmers. Mink showing respiratory problems and/or increased mortality must be reported.

Officials from the Netherlands’ National Institute for Public Health & the Environment said, based on current knowledge about COVID-19, the mink farms do not pose a risk of further spread to people.

The United States has some 245 mink farms in 22 states producing about 3.3 million pelts annually, worth about $130 million. Utah and Idaho follow Wisconsin as the leading mink-producing states, followed by Oregon and Minnesota.

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