USDA: Ferret tests positive for COVID-19 in Florida

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FILE – In this Oct. 5, 2015, file photo, a black-footed ferret looks out of the entrance to a prairie dog tunnel after being let loose during a release of 30 of the animals by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Commerce City, Colo. In the summer of 2020, about 120 ferrets at Colorado’s National Black-footed Conservation Center were injected with an experimental COVID-19 vaccine. The endangered animals are feared to be highly vulnerable to the disease. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

MIAMI (AP) — A ferret has tested positive for COVID-19 in Florida, federal officials announced Friday.

This is the first ferret to test positive for COVID-19 in the United States, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture news release. A ferret in the European nation of Slovenia previously tested positive for the virus.

USDA officials said samples from the Florida ferret were tested after the animal showed symptoms that included sneezing and coughing. Officials believe the ferret acquired the infection from a person with COVID-19.

The small mustelids are commonly kept as pets. Officials didn’t say where in Florida the infected ferret was found.

COVID-19 has been reported in several animal species around the world, usually animals that come in close contact with infected humans, officials said. The USDA said the the risk of animals spreading the virus to people is low and doesn’t recommend routine testing for animals.

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