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DNR confirms dead mink on Taylor County farm tested positive for COVID-19

Grace Connatser
Wisconsin State Farmer
A Taylor County mink farm confirmed positive COVID-19 tests on Oct. 8.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources announced positive cases of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans, on a Taylor County mink farm.

The DNR said these are the first SARS-CoV-2 infections found on mink farms in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory performed preliminary testing on the mink, while the National Veterinary Services Laboratories confirmed positive cases.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection said all mink on the farm are being quarantined and no information on the farm or other involved parties will be released due to an active investigation. The response measures include appropriate mink carcass disposal and disinfecting animal areas. 

A press release said many agencies and organizations, including DATCP, DNR, WVDL, Taylor County Health Department, Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and US Department of Agriculture are all working together to assist the farm in fighting the outbreak.

Valerie Zimbal, who owns Zimbal Mink Farm, located in Sheboygan Falls, said their mink population is being closely monitored for any signs of disease. They've also been implementing biosecurity measures since the pandemic started, like showering in and out, wearing masks, doing temperature checks and limiting visitors to the farm. If any employee feels sick, they are asked to stay at home.

Zimbal said the mink industry has been hit by the pandemic because mink coats and other fur clothing aren't being bought as often since people are not out shopping as usual. She said her farm sells product internationally, which has had serious effects since Europe has taken economic hits because of mink populations catching the virus.

"Hopefully it gets better and things get back to normal," Zimbal said. "It's kind of like every other business, it affects everyone."

Wisconsin is the second state in the US to find SARS-CoV-2 cases on a mink farm, with Utah being the first confirmed on Aug. 17. While humans are not in danger of contracting the virus from animals, infected humans can spread it to animals and should not be in contact with animals or other humans and should quarantine at home throughout the duration of the infection.