About a dozen US mink farms are being kept under quarantine as authorities investigate coronavirus outbreaks that have killed more than 15,000 of the furry creatures since August.

The Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will work with state officials and the mink industry in Utah, Wisconsin and Michigan to test and monitor infected farms.

“We believe that quarantining affected mink farms in addition to implementing stringent biosecurity measures will succeed in controlling SARS-CoV-2 at these locations,” the USDA said in a statement to Reuters on Tuesday.

The move comes after Denmark announced last week that it would kill all of its 17 million mink over a mutated coronavirus strain that was spreading to humans, posing a risk to vaccine efforts.

The CDC said that there’s currently no evidence in the US that animals play a significant role in spreading COVID-19 to humans.

In Wisconsin and Utah, the sick mink had been exposed to humans with probable or confirmed COVID-19 cases, while in Michigan, it’s still not clear if the animals were infected by people, the USDA said.

Officials in the affected states said they don’t plan to cull their mink populations, adding that they’re monitoring the situation in Denmark.

So far in Utah — the first state to confirm COVID-19 cases in mink in August — about 10,700 of the mammals have died on nine farms.

“On all nine, everything is still suggesting a one-way travel from people to the minks,” said Dean Taylor, a state veterinarian.

In Wisconsin, about 5,000 mink have died on two farms. Michigan declined to disclose how many mink have died, citing privacy rules.

Authorities are urging farmers to take preventative measures, like wearing masks and gloves, when handling mink to avoid infecting the animals.

Meanwhile, state authorities are also working with the USDA to determine whether the pelts of infected mink can still be sold by farmers to make fur coats and other items.

While the virus has also been found in cats, dogs, a lion and a tiger, officials say mink appear to be the most susceptible animal so far.

“Whatever we learn about mink is going to help understand the virus across species,” Taylor said. “It’s going to give us a better response to people to stop this pandemic.”

With Post wires

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