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First Cases of SARS-CoV-2 in Mink in the United States Confirmed in Utah


Today, the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Veterinary Service Laboratory (NVSL) announced the first confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 in mink in the United States. Five infected mink were identified at two Utah mink farms. SARSCoV-2 is the animal virus linked to COVID-19 in humans.

The Utah Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (UVDL) completed necropsies on several dead animals from the two mink farms after the mink operations reported unusually high mortality rates in their mink populations. The samples were tested at the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory at Washington State University. From there, the samples were sent to the National Veterinary Services Laboratories for final conformational testing. The affected mink farms have been completely quarantined to stop the spread of SARS-CoV-2.

“My office is dedicated to containing SARS-CoV-2 by implementing stringent biosecurity measures where needed. We believe that our early detection of the virus will prove beneficial in the long run” said State Veterinarian Dr. Dean Taylor.

The two affected Utah mink farms also reported cases of COVID-19 in their staff members. However, there is currently no evidence that animals, including mink, play a significant role in transmitting the virus to humans. As it now stands, due to limited information and research, the risk of animals spreading SARS-CoV-2 to humans is considered low.

Other species of animals within the United States have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, but these are the first confirmed cases in mink in the U.S. Earlier this year the virus was detected internationally in mink in the Netherlands.

The USDA announces cases of confirmed SARS-CoV-2 in animals each time it is found in a new species. All confirmed cases in animals are posted here.

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food and the Utah Department of Health will be hosting a joint press conference Monday, August 17, 2020 at 2:00 p.m. at the Utah State Capitol Building.  The speakers will take questions from the media through a zoom conference call, following a brief presentation.   Text Brooke Scheffler at (801) 674-0132 to receive access to that call.

UDAF Announces New State Chemist

Brandon Forsyth, Ph.D., earned his doctorate in Bioanalytical Chemistry from the University of Utah, Department of Chemistry. His graduate work focused on the use of single-molecule fluorescence microscopy to measure the adsorption rates of post-translationally modified peptides to supported lipid bilayers. Ras proteins modified with prenyl groups play an essential role in the MAPK signaling cascade, with mutated Ras proteins being associated with many common cancers. The goal of the work was to understand how the post-translational modifications that these proteins undergo affect their association with cellular membranes, which is crucial to their function.

Dr. Forsyth comes to the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDA from the University of Utah, Center for Human Toxicology (CHT), where he worked as an Associate Toxicologist. He worked at the CHT with a team of researchers studying drug-drug interactions between opiates and benzodiazepines. He was also involved there in other research projects involving common drugs of abuse. While employed with the CHT, he was contracted by the UDAF Medical Cannabis program to draft a guiding document for the testing of cannabis and cannabis products.

Prior to being appointed as the State Chemist, Dr. Forsyth served as a Program Health Manager for the UDAF Medical Cannabis Program. He worked with the UDAF lab, Medical Cannabis Program staff, and medical cannabis producers to ensure the safety of cannabis products in Utah. As the State Chemist and Director of the UDAF State Laboratory, Dr. Forsyth is responsible for overseeing the analysis of agricultural and food products as part of the department’s regulatory function. He also provides direction to the Medical Cannabis Program and other developing UDAF programs to keep UDAF ahead of these rapidly evolving markets.

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UDAF Breaking News on Unsolicited Seed Packages – updated August 13, 2020

Unsolicited Seed Instructions:

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food is requesting individuals who have received unsolicited packages of seeds to deliver those seeds to the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA AAPHIS). Instructions with additional links are listed below.

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USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is aware that people across the country have received suspicious, unsolicited packages of seed that appear to be coming from China. We are working closely with the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, other federal agencies, and State departments of agriculture to investigate the situation.

Our main concern is the potential for these seeds to introduce damaging pests or diseases that could harm U.S. agriculture. It is important that we collect and test as many seeds as possible. Anyone who receives an unsolicited package of seeds should submit an online report and mail their seeds to the nearest USDA office in their state. If more than one location is listed, please select the location closest to your residence.


Instructions for Mailing Seed Packets:

    • Place the unopened seed packet and any packaging, including the mailing label in a mailing envelope. If the seed packets are open, first place the seeds and their packaging into a zip-lock bag, seal it, and then place everything into a mailing envelope.
    • Please include your name, address, and phone number so that a State or Federal agriculture official can contact you for additional information, if needed.
    • If you received other unsolicited items in addition to seeds, please only send the seeds.

If you are unable to mail the package, please contact your APHIS State Plant Health Director to arrange a no-contact pick up or determine a convenient drop-off location.

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For more information, including a list of frequently asked questions, please click here.



Agricultural Voluntary Incentive Program

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) in cooperation with the Utah Division of Water Quality (DWQ) have begun the Voluntary Agricultural Incentive Program (AgVIP) to help farming operations develop Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans (CNMPs) that will help producers maximize crop yields while staying in compliance with state water quality regulations and includes several financial incentives.

The application period for the Voluntary Agriculture Incentive Program will be July 1, 2020 to August 1st 2020.


Toxic Algae Bloom Around Zion’s National Park

Producers Near Warned to Prevent Animal Exposure to Toxic Algae Bloom Around Zion’s National Park

A Harmful Algae Bloom (HAB) was recently detected in the North Fork of the Virgin River in Zion National Park. The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food is issuing a warning to all producers with livestock along the 15 mile stretch of river from Zion National Park (ZNP), down to Virgin City, to use other sources of water, if available.

Preliminary research is showing that water taken from the Virgin River and distributed in stock tanks is safe. However, having animals drink directly from the river may expose them to the harmful algae. The algae found in the Virgin River seems to not pollute the water so long as it is not disturbed by movement such as animal crossings or recreational traffic. However, because producers cannot predict what is happening upriver from them, it is advised that they use
alternate water sources where available.

Animals that ingest cyanotoxins or cyanobacteria cells may show symptoms such as vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, convulsions, difficulty breathing and general weakness. Consumption of cyanotoxins can result in livestock deaths.

For producers that irrigate, there is currently limited information on plant update of toxins. The main concern is protecting irrigators from these toxins. Individuals are encouraged to practice good hygiene, especially in the areas where they come in contact with irrigation water.

Microcoleus a benthic algae found in the North Fork of the Virgin River can produce high levels of anatoxin-a, a nervous system cyanotoxin and harmful cyanobacteria. Benthic Samples taken from the river have shown anatoxin-a concentration greater than 55 micrograms per liter in some samples. The Department of Water Quality (DWQ) and Utah Department of Health’s threshold for primary recreation is 15 micrograms per liter. Testing is currently on going from the area above where the river enters ZNP, down to Virgin City. Currently, water column samples taken from the river have not detected cyanotoxins.

UDAF is currently monitoring the situation with other agencies such as the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, Zion National Park, and the Department of Health, and the cities of Springdale, Rockville and Virgin, Utah.

Click here to learn more.