B.C.’s chief veterinarian says reports suggest COVID-19 could spread to other animals.

This comes in the wake of an outbreak at a mink farm in the Fraser Valley. Several workers on the farm tested positive for the virus, and it spread to five mink.

Millions of minks in other countries have been killed after contracting the coronavirus. It then mutated in the animals, and was passed back to mink farmworkers. 

Mink samples from the BC farm were collected and submitted to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease. The results were expected, considering the interaction between infected workers and mink on the farm.

Dr. Rayna Gunvaldsen says if COVID-19 were to infect other species, it would come from close contact with an infected human. 

“It’s really coming into close contact with the animals, is how they would get it from people,” says Gunvaldsen.

According to the Centre for Disease Control, it’s still learning about this virus, but it appears that it does spread from people to animals in some situations. It’s urging people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 to avoid contact with animals, including pets, livestock, and wildlife.

Gunvaldsen adds that the farm is now under a quarantine order, meaning no animals or goods can leave the property. “This serves to control the risk that the virus from the mink can be transmitted off-farm,” she says.

A plan is now in place to provide feed and care to the mink during the outbreak. The province says this plan respects the conditions of the quarantine while maintaining both worker and mink safety.

“As soon as it was discovered that mink are susceptible to COVID-19, I know that all the mink producers in British Columbia were being very proactive in the steps that they were taking to make sure that their animals were protected,” Gunvaldsen says.

The Fraser Valley outbreak is not considered to pose a health risk to other mink farms.