British Columbia

200 mink die at Fraser Valley farm with COVID-19 outbreak

About 200 mink have died on a farm in British Columbia's Fraser Valley, east of Vancouver, where a COVID-19 outbreak was declared nearly a week ago.

National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease has confirmed 5 mink samples tested positive for COVID-19

Mink are farmed around the world for their pelts. There are about 60 mink farms across Canada, including in B.C.'s Fraser Valley. (Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix/Reuters)

About 200 mink have died on a farm in British Columbia's Fraser Valley, east of Vancouver, where a COVID-19 outbreak was declared nearly a week ago.

In a written statement Saturday, B.C.'s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries said the source of the infection is unknown at this time but the National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease in Winnipeg has confirmed that five mink samples tested positive for the virus

The deaths happened over the course of the week and the mortality rate has slowed, the ministry said.

The outbreak is limited to one farm, which the ministry said cannot be named due to public safety concerns. The ministry also said there are about 15,000 mink at the farm, and the majority of them don't appear to be showing symptoms. 

Last Sunday, Fraser Health said eight people had tested positive for COVID-19 at the farm. The ministry said the mink farm has been ordered to restrict the transportation of animals, products and goods.

Concerns about virus mutation

Mink are ferret-like animals that are farmed around the world for their fur. There are around 60 mink farms across the country, according to the Fur Council of Canada.

Last month, the Danish government ordered all farmed minks to be culled, after finding that 12 people had been infected by a unique mutated strain of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, which passed from humans to mink, then back to humans.

If mink are infected, there's potential for the virus to mutate within the mink population, which has been seen elsewhere. The ministry says samples are being tested to determine the genome sequencing and the strain of the virus, and results are expected this week. 

From what is known at this time, the ministry said it would be premature to order a cull of mink in B.C.

The outbreak has renewed calls from animal rights activists to put an end to the fur trade in Canada.

The World Health Organization has so far identified six countries that had reported SARS-CoV-2 in farmed minks: Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Italy and the United States.

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