HENNING BAGGER/Ritzau Minks
Thousands of minks at fur farms across Wisconsin, Michigan and Utah are dead following a series of coronavirus outbreaks.
A spokesperson for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection confirms to PEOPLE that more than 2,000 minks have died since animals at a farm in Taylor County tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, a virus that causes COVID-19 in humans.
Officials said in a press release that the farm, which they did not identify, has been placed under quarantine as authorities launch an investigation and assist in appropriate carcass disposal and cleaning of the animal areas.
"There is currently no evidence that animals, including mink, play a significant role in spreading SARS-CoV-2 to humans," the release read. "However, people infected with the virus can spread it to mink and other animals. People suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 are encouraged to avoid contact with pets."
GETTY IMAGES Mink
On Friday, the Michigan Department of Agricultural & Rural Development announced that minks at a fur farm in the state also tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. The instance was the first of the virus being confirmed among Michigan’s farmed mink population.
The department said in a press release that the diagnosis came after several minks, which are farmed for their luxurious pelts, "exhibited signs of illness and died" and the owner submitted samples to health officials.
The farm is now "self-contained" and "the likelihood of the virus moving to wildlife, pets, or people is quite low," according to the department.
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In Utah, nearly 10,000 minks have died of COVID-19 at nine different fur farms, NBC News reported.
"Minks show open mouth breathing, discharge from their eyes and nose, and are not sick for several days before they pass away," state veterinarian Dr. Dean Taylor told the outlet. "They typically die within the next day."
Taylor said that the virus has predominantly targeted older minks, "wiping out 50 percent of the breeding colonies" and leaving younger ones unscathed.
Minks were first discovered to be susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 in April when farms in the Netherlands suffered several outbreaks in its animal population, the Associated Press reported. Outbreaks among minks in Denmark and Spain have since been detected.
As of Friday, there have been more than 7,680,900 COVID-19 cases within humans and 213,200 deaths from coronavirus-related illnesses in the United States, according to a New York Times database.
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