Guidance for Safely Importing and Handling Mink and Mink Products to Prevent COVID-19


SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) has been reported in mink on farms in multiple countries, including the United States. These CDC recommendations are for importers, inspectors, processors, and farmers of mink and mink products to prevent importing and possibly spreading SARS-CoV-2 in the United States.

Key points about SARS-CoV-2 infection and mink

  • Mink can easily be infected with SARS-CoV-2. Infected workers can introduce the virus to mink on the farms, then the virus can spread among the mink. Once the virus is introduced on a farm, it can spread between mink and to other animals, like dogs or cats.[1], [2]
  • At this time, there is no evidence that mink are playing a significant role in the spread of SARS-CoV-2 to people. However, there is a possibility of mink spreading this virus to people on mink farms. Mink- to-human spread of SARS-CoV-2 was reported in the Netherlands, Denmark, and Poland, and data suggest it might have occurred in the United States.[1], [3], [4], [5], [6]
  • Mink infected with SARS-CoV-2 may not show any symptoms or can show a range of symptoms, from mild to severe respiratory symptoms (coughing, sneezing, eye and nose discharge, difficulty breathing) and gastrointestinal symptoms (diarrhea). Farms with infected mink may also have increased numbers of mink deaths.[1], [2]
  • Products from infected mink such as pelts and skins may be contaminated with the virus.[1] Currently, no country has reported any cases of SARS-CoV-2 spreading from mink products to people.
Processing definitions

Processed pelt is the mink’s furred skin that has been processed (tanned) and made noninfectious.

Pelt or raw processed pelt is a furred skin with fat or excess flesh removed. It may have been cleaned, softened, dried, and stretched. However, the pelt has NOT been tanned or treated using a method approved by CDC to make it noninfectious. This raw processed pelt may be infectious. Investigation is ongoing to determine the potential for the pelt to contain infectious virus.

Skin or raw unprocessed skin means the skin was removed from the mink’s body, but nothing else has been done. Investigation is ongoing to determine the potential for the raw unprocessed skin to contain infectious virus.

To reduce the risk of getting COVID-19 from mink and mink products, follow these steps:

Importing live mink

  • Don’t import live mink from farms with an active SARS-CoV-2 outbreak.
  • Don’t import live mink until a health official in the country of origin has cleared them for exportation.
  • Don’t introduce imported mink into an established herd until after they undergo a 21-day quarantine and subsequently receive a negative SARS-CoV-2 viral RT-PCR test.

Before importing pelts

  • Before importing to the United States, ensure pelts have been processed through tanning or other methods to make the pelts noninfectious.
  • Pelts that have not been processed (tanned) to render them noninfectious should be held at 20C (68F) and 40–70% relative humidity for a minimum of 14 days before shipping to the United States.

Importing raw mink products

If you import raw, unprocessed skins, pelts, or other materials from SARS-CoV-2-infected farms that have not been tanned or treated using a method approved by CDC, ensure the exporter follows these simple steps before shipping:

  1. Place skins, pelts, or other untreated materials in airtight plastic bags.
  2. Spray the bags with a disinfectant approved for SARS-CoV-2 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
  3. Place the plastic bags inside a sealed container.
  4. Transport skins directly to a state-approved processing plant in the United States that has agreed to accept the mink products.
  5. Ensure the containers will remain unopened until they reach the US processing plant.

Handling mink products at processing plants

Products from farms with infected mink may be contaminated with SARS-CoV-2.

Raw unprocessed pelts or skins imported from other countries for further processing are usually stored in a freezer, which may allow any virus present to survive for a prolonged time. Pelting and pelt processing are considered higher-risk activities that can create airborne particles that can spread SARS-CoV-2 if present.

To reduce your risk of getting COVID-19, follow these simple steps:

Before handling

  • Get fully vaccinated for COVID-19 before working with mink products.
    • People are generally considered fully vaccinated
      • Two weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, OR
      • Two weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine.
  • Open doors and windows to increase airflow. If opening doors and windows is not possible, increase the air exchange rate to improve ventilation.
  • Wear personal protective equipment (PPE):
    • Eye protection (goggles or face shield).
    • A respirator approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Wear the respirator as part of a complete respiratory protection program required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Respiratory Protection standards (29 CFR 1910.134)
      • If a respirator isn’t available, wear a surgical mask and a face shield.
    • Fluid-resistant gloves.
    • Protective outerwear to prevent your skin from contacting animal bodies, organs, body fluids, and pelts.

After handling

  1. Throw away single-use PPE as hazardous waste after working with mink products.
  2. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after removing PPE, including gloves, and after touching animals or animal by-products, including skins or pelts.
    • If soap and water aren’t available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  3. Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth until after you wash your hands.
  4. Disinfect possibly contaminated surfaces using an EPA-approved product.
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  5. Lukasz Rabalski, Maciej Kosinski, Natalia Mazur-Panasiuk, Boguslaw Szewczyk, Krystyna Bienkowska-Szewczyk, Ravi Kant, Tarja Sironen, Krysztof Pyrć, Maciej Grzybek. Zoonotic spillover of SARS-CoV-2: mink-adapted virus in humans. bioRxiv 2021.03.05.433713; doi:
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