Minks look out of a cage at a fur farm in the village of Litusovo, northeast of Minsk, Belarus. Some mink farmers are concerned about COVID-19 spread through their mink. There have been outbreaks in mink farms in Europe and millions of mink had to be culled. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Sergei Grits.

Minks look out of a cage at a fur farm in the village of Litusovo, northeast of Minsk, Belarus. Some mink farmers are concerned about COVID-19 spread through their mink. There have been outbreaks in mink farms in Europe and millions of mink had to be culled. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Sergei Grits.

COVID-19 outbreak declared at Fraser Valley mink farm

Minks can be naturally infected, and farmed mink can develop clinical illness, according to BCCDC

Fraser Health has declared a COVID-19 outbreak at a mink farm in the Fraser Valley.

Eight people at the farm have tested positive, according to a Dec. 6 news release from Fraser Health. The health authority is now screening employees and conducting case and contact management.

“As with all individuals who test positive or are close contacts of individuals who test positive for COVID-19, the farm operators and affected staff are self-isolating,” Fraser Health said. “The site has been inspected by Fraser Health and WorkSafeBC and we continue to work with the site on their COVID-19 mitigation strategies.”

The farm has been ordered to restrict all transport of animals, products and goods from the location, under the BC Animal Health Act. The minks’ welfare is being supported by the Ministry of Agriculture, and enhanced measures are being put in place to keeps the farm owner and creatures safe.

COVID-19 can be naturally acquired by a small number of animals, including domestic cats, lions and tigers, dogs and minks, according to the BC Centre for Disease Control, and clinical illness can result in cats and farmed mink.

All employers in B.C., including mink farms, are required to implement COVID-19 safety plans, Fraser Health said. This includes requirements to assess any risks to workers, and plans to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace.

The outbreak is being addressed through a partnership of BC Ministry of Agriculture, BC Ministry of Health, WorkSafeBC and BC Centre for Disease Control to support the health of farm operators and staff.

WorkSafeBC’s Consultation & Education Services team is now reaching out directly to other mink farms across the province to discuss requirements.

World Animal Protection is a charity in Toronto which has been pushing the Canadian government to put a global ban on the wildlife trade to stop the spread of animals-to-human viruses. The group said mink farming is inhumane, and the animals are kept in tiny, overcrowded cages which makes it easier for viruses to jump species.

“This outbreak in B.C. is a wake-up call for Canada to end the farming and trade of wild animals for luxury products,” said Melissa Matlow, the campaign director for World Animal Protection. “COVID-19 has spread like wildfire on mink farms in Europe and several states in the U.S. A number of countries have banned fur farming and COVID-19 has led the Netherlands to accelerate their phase-out of the industry.

“World Animal Protection is strongly encouraging Canada to follow their lead.”

Around 75 per cent of emerging infection diseases impacting humans come from animals (mainly wildlife), according to the Matlow. She said the industry is cruel and is a significant risk to public health.

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