Minks Test Positive for COVID-19 on BC Farm Where Workers Sick

Minks Test Positive for COVID-19 on BC Farm Where Workers Sick
Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for the province of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C, on Dec. 7, 2020. (The Canadian Press/Jonathan Hayward)
The Canadian Press

ABBOTSFORD, B.C.—Test results from five mink samples taken from a farm in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley have come back positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans.

The provincial Ministry of Agriculture said Wednesday the animal samples were gathered after several workers at the mink farm tested positive for COVID-19.

B.C.’s chief veterinarian has placed the farm under quarantine, prohibiting the movement of animals and materials from the property, the ministry said in a statement.

"The results were expected, considering the interaction between infected workers and mink on the farm," the statement says. "Testing to determine genome sequencing and the strain of the virus continues."

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said earlier this week the outbreak was concerning because transmissions between humans and mink have occurred in other countries and there’s a potential for mutations of the virus.

The ministry said a plan was in place to feed and care for the mink during the outbreak, which was declared on Monday when eight workers tested positive for COVID-19.

"The plan respects the conditions of the quarantine and maintains worker and mink safety," the statement says. "The outbreak at this farm is not considered to pose a health risk to other mink farms."

Denmark, the world’s largest supplier of mink fur, decided last month to cull all of its farmed mink, about 15 million animals.

Spain culled about 100,000 farmed mink, and in the U.S., about 10,000 mink in Utah died as the virus spread across farms.

The World Health Organization said in a statement on Dec. 3 that the decision to cull mink in Denmark was made following information that revealed it wasn’t possible to stop the spread of infection from farm to farm, or from animals to humans.

"Mink are acting like a reservoir and contributing to the ongoing transmission in Denmark," the WHO said.

Mink farming in Denmark has now been banned until the end of December 2021.

COVID-19 strains, which are infecting mink and subsequently being transferred back to humans, may have acquired mutations to adapt to the mink host, the statement from the WHO says.

The B.C. farm was inspected by the province’s chief veterinarian and ministry staff as part of a routine inspection process in September and was found to comply with all animal welfare and biosecurity standards, the ministry statement says.

The ministry said samples were submitted to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease in Winnipeg and the World Organisation for Animal Health has been notified.