Study: Minks infected with COVID-19 by humans can spread coronavirus back to them

A new study indicates that minks not only can contract COVID-19 from humans, but are able to spread the virus among other minks and back to people as well.

Published on June 11 in the Eurosurveillance scientific journal, “SARS-CoV-2 infection in farmed minks, the Netherlands, April and May 2020" provides an overview of the findings of r"esearchers who reported on minks infected with COVID-19 on two farms in the Netherlands, the only reported instance of such transmission.

According to the study, in April, symptoms of respiratory disease were observed in the minks on both of the farms. Minks that died were then necroposied and tested for the virus as well as other health conditions. “All tests except SARS-CoV-2 were negative,” the study noted.

As to how the virus may have spread to the minks, the study describes COVID-19-like symptoms that were experienced in humans working on the farms before they appeared in the minks, with one confirmed COVID-19 infection among the workers.

Data gathered from the study argues against an epidemiological connection between the two farms.

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The distance between the two sequence clusters originating from the two farms suggests separate introductions, arguing against an epidemiological connection, which are almost nine miles apart from one another.

“The most likely explanation for the widespread infection on the mink farms is introduction of the virus by humans and subsequent transmission among the minks,” the study states. 

As to how the minks could then spread the virus back to humans, the study describes that dust and or droplets between the minks suggests an “occupational risk of exposure for workers on the farms.” That level of risk is still being determined, but Netherlands health authorities have already recommended that those working on infected mink farms wear PPE.

Since the onset of the pandemic, health authorities have been trying to determine if animals can contract the novel coronavirus, how they can spread it back to people, and necessary preventative measures humans can take.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been a small number of COVID-19 cases reported in pets across the world. The CDC notes that the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is low, but the agency still cautions against letting pets interact with other people outside of one’s home.

“If a person inside the household becomes sick,” the CDC states, “isolate that person from everyone else, including pets.”

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