British Columbia

Minks at farm in B.C.'s Fraser Valley test positive for coronavirus

Five mink samples at a farm in B.C.'s Fraser Valley have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans, fuelling concerns of possible new mutations of the coronavirus. 

8 workers on farm tested positive last weekend, fuelling concerns of new mutations of coronavirus

The ferret-like animals are farmed around the world for their fur, with more than 200 farms across Canada as of 2017. (Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix/Reuters)

Five mink samples at a farm in B.C.'s Fraser Valley have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans, fuelling concerns of possible new mutations of the coronavirus. 

The province's agriculture ministry says the results were expected after eight workers on the farm tested positive last weekend.

Health officials sent the mink samples for testing to the National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease in Winnipeg. The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has been notified of the results under international reporting requirements.

Minks 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 minks, then back to humans.

Dr. Lauren Adelman, a veterinarian at Canada West Veterinary Specialists, Vancouver's largest animal hospital, said earlier this week it's likely people working at the farm are the original source of exposure.

If minks are infected, there's the potential for the virus to mutate within the mink population, which has been seen elsewhere.

"A lot of those mutations that they're finding potentially relate to that spike protein, which is obviously concerning because that's the vaccine target that's being developed," Adelman said.

The province says samples are being tested to determine the genome sequencing and the strain of the virus. Results are expected later this week. 

B.C.'s chief veterinarian has placed the farm under quarantine and banned the movement of animals and materials from the property.

The province says a plan is in place to provide feed and care to the minks during the outbreak. 

It says the outbreak at the farm does not pose a health risk to the dozen other mink farms in the region.

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.

With files from Eva Uguen-Csenge

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now