The USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratories confirmed the result by real-time RT-PCR and sequencing of a nasal swab collected from a free-ranging, wild mink sampled in Utah.
Officials say this is the first free-ranging, native wild animal confirmed with SARS-CoV-2, to the best of their knowledge.
USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has notified the World Organisation for Animal Health of this detection in a wild mink as part of the epidemiological study in the surrounding area of the infected farm.
APHIS conducted wildlife surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 in meso-carnivores and other species around infected mink farms in Utah, Michigan, and Wisconsin between August and October.
Surveillance was conducted as part of investigations involving the CDC, the US Geological Survey, and State Departments of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Health.
Health officials say 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.
Many mink farms across the world have seen outbreaks of SARS-CoV-2, including Oregon, Michigan, Wisconsin, Denmark, and the Netherlands.
Utah’s state veterinarian Dr. Dean Taylor told ABC4 in November that data does not suggest mink are a threat to people.
“To date, nothing has shown that virus has gone the other direction,” Taylor says. “However, we’re still watching for that to happen and we’re going to listen to those reports when they come out.”
Taylor adds that mink becoming infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 likely comes from workers or owners interacting with the mink.
Thousands of mink on Utah farms have already died because of the virus.
Five infected mink were identified at two Utah mink farms. SARS- CoV-2 is the animal virus linked to COVID-19 in humans.