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Upton statement on COVID-19 outbreak at a west Michigan mink farm

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, today penned letters to U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary Gregory Ibach and CDC Director Robert Redfield after learning about cases of minks infected with SARS-CoV-2 at a west Michigan farm. Upton is concerned about how the outbreak at the farm could impact the public health and safety as well as the impact it could have Michigan’s agriculture community.

Upton is requesting the CDC to deploy a CDC One Health field team to support Michigan’s public health and animal health partners with an on-farm investigation into the people and animals infected or exposed to SARS-CoV-2.

“The CDC’s One Health collaborative is uniquely positioned to help Michigan in mitigating the impact of this SARSCoV-2 outbreak,” Upton wrote. “Their assistance will be vital as we continue to asses and contain the infected wildlife population.”

Upton is also requesting additional information from the USDA.

“As we experience the worst public health crisis in a century, the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic necessitates our most serious obligation to protect the health of our citizens,” Upton wrote. “We have learned about potential cases of minks infected with SARS-CoV-2 at a Michigan farm. This must be addressed to ensure the safety of farmers, their workers, and the surrounding community.”

In the letter to USDA, Upton asks the agency for answers to five specific questions:

  1. According to the CDC “the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low,” however even one case of COVID-19 is one too many. Is there any evidence of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from mink to humans, or from mink to other animals?
  2. What is USDA doing to identify and contain the spread of at mink farms?
    1. What guidance is given once an infection is identified?

                                               i.     Are infected animals quarantined or euthanized?

  1. How is this information transmitted to state agricultural agencies?
  2. How is USDA and APHIS coordinating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to mitigate the spread of SARS-CoV-2 at mink farms?
  3. Given the fragile state of the agricultural economy, if an outbreak were to occur, what resources does USDA offer to assist farmers should they encounter a loss from SARS-CoV-2 infected minks?

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