Similar to the vaccines for humans, State Veterinarian Dr. Darlene Konkle said the vaccine for mink was approved by federal officials for experimental use because of the threat presented by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans.
"So we don't have a lot of data yet on efficacy. But to have a vaccine available at all I think is a positive thing. We want to be able to have for mink farms any tool available to prevent the mink from being exposed," Konkle said.
Mary Thurber, clinical instructor in zoological medicine at UW-Madison and Vilas’ primary veterinarian, said zookeepers continue to take precautions around animals potentially at risk of contracting COVID-19, including wearing facemasks.
Veterinary staff have plenty of experience vaccinating animals at Vilas, she said, as it’s common to protect them against diseases such as rabies, distemper and the West Nile virus.
“Our great apes do often receive some of the same vaccines humans do since they have some of the same susceptibilities,” Thurber said. “They’ll get vaccines like tetanus, sometimes we’ll do influenza vaccines for the great apes.”
Douglas Kratt, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, applauded the decision. “We want to make sure we’re bringing healthy dogs into the country — especially if they are going to be pets,” said Kratt, a veterinarian in La Crosse, Wisconsin.
TB infection in a herd can be financially devastating, according to Dr. Keith Poulsen, Director of the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin. “Not only does the disease take a toll on animal health and productivity, but it can endanger workers and limit animal sales by the farm,” Poulsen explained. “Herds confirmed infected will be placed under quarantine with routine, required testing and limited animal movement, probably for several years.”
“People don’t live in a vacuum,” said Keith Poulsen, the director of the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at UW-Madison. “When you have an infectious disease come through, we have households of mammals, and that includes people, dogs, cats.” For the past year, Poulsen and his lab have been testing animal samples from all across the country, trying to help get a handle on whether our furry friends can get infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus — and, in turn, whether they could spread it back to humans.