4 People in Michigan May Have Caught COVID From Mink

New report suggests CDC was slow to alert public in 2020
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 19, 2022 12:04 PM CDT
4 People in Michigan May Have Caught COVID From Mink
In this file photo, mink look out from a pen on a farm near Naestved, Denmark.   (Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix via AP)

A new report by National Geographic about an outbreak of COVID on a mink farm in Michigan in 2020 does not paint the CDC in a positive light.

  • 4 infections: The report says four people appear to have gotten infected—two who worked at the farm in Eaton County, and two people with no connection to the farm. The Detroit Free Press previously reported on three of those infections.
  • Slow alert: The National Geographic report, based on documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, says the agency was aware that mink on the fur farm "infected humans at least three months before it quietly updated its website in March 2021." The researchers quoted complain that a lag such as that hampers their ability to track the virus.

  • Significance: These cases represent "the first known instance of possible animal-to-human transmission of the virus in the United States," per the New York Times. The link is not definitive, but health officials say it's the mostly likely explanation for the four human cases. All four people recovered. The two who were not connected to the farm were a taxidermist and his wife. The latter pair of cases suggest the variant found in mink was in wider circulation in the local community than realized.
(Europe also battled a COVID outbreak in mink, and a wild mink in Utah turned up with the virus, too.)

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