Wisconsin farms work to vaccinate mink against coronavirus

As Wisconsin health officials work to get more residents vaccinated against the coronavirus, a mass vaccination effort is also underway in the state’s mink industry.

The State Department of Agriculture, Commerce, and Consumer Protection approved the use of a mink vaccine made by veterinary drug company Zoetis in May.

Similar to vaccines for humans, state veterinarian Darlene Konkle said the mink vaccine has been approved by federal authorities for experimental use due to the threat posed by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans.

“So we don’t have a lot of efficacy data yet. But to have a vaccine available at all, I think that’s a positive thing. We want to be able to have for mink farms whatever tools are available to prevent the disease from occurring. ‘mink show. ”Konkle said.

She said the state is not tracking which farms have chosen to use the vaccine.

Dr John Easley, a Wisconsin veterinarian and consultant for the mink industry, said farms representing about 95 percent of mink in the United States have committed to vaccinating their animals.

He said the vaccination protocol for mink is similar to that for humans, with two doses given about three weeks apart.

“Growers in Wisconsin have used the vaccine to a very high degree. The vast majority of farms are in their first round of vaccination. In the next few weeks they will be entering their second cycle,” Easley said.

The vaccination effort is costing producers across the country about $ 1.2 million in total, Easley said – a cost that has kept some producers from continuing the shot for their animals. But he said many producers believe the cost was worth it after the virus killed thousands of mink on farms in Europe and the United States, including two farms in Taylor County.

“The reason they’re doing this is obviously to protect their mink from this new disease,” Easley said. “But it is also used to help reduce any potential risk to the human population due to the potential replication of the virus on farms.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website reports that the spread of the virus from mink to humans has been reported in Michigan, as well as in the Netherlands, Denmark and Poland.

The agency said an investigation at a Michigan farm found a small number of people “were infected with SARS-CoV-2 which contained unique mutations linked to mink.”

The CDC also said there had been reports of a strain of the virus linked to mink in a community in Denmark, but the World Health Organization reported in November that the strain was no longer circulating.

Some animal welfare activists argue that the possibility of the virus continuing to mutate in farmed mink poses a threat to public health.

Dr Jim Keen, director of veterinary science at the Center for a Humane Economy, said the mink vaccination would be a “partial cure” at best because of the ease with which the virus has spread among minks in firm. He specifies that no vaccine is completely effective.

“You won’t be able to get vaccinated to get out of this,” Keen said. “You’re just not going to be able to achieve 100% herd immunity in farmed mink. And you also suffer from immunosuppression from the abnormal environment, I call it ‘denatured.’ “

A report prepared by Keen for the Center for a Humane Economy and Animal Wellness Action said that farmed mink populations could also spread the virus to wild mink populations or related species in the United States, which would complicate the process. humans’ ability to control the virus and would pose a threat of new epidemics.

Konkle said the DATCP has not received any reports of the virus spreading to other livestock or new outbreaks on state mink farms.

She said the two Taylor County farms that experienced outbreaks last fall were nearing the end of their quarantine process and were among the farms that have vaccinated their animals.

“We don’t see sick mink anymore. We’ve had rounds of testing, the last of which were negative. Really, what we expect on these farms is handling manure and other properties that could potentially be a source of the virus, ”Konkle said.

This process will likely be completed in the next few weeks, she said.

This item republished with permission from Wisconsin Public Radio

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