However figuring out when, and in whom, the mutations first appeared requires many extra virus samples from farm staff, native residents and mink, collected earlier than and after the outbreak. “That information doesn’t exist,” stated Arinjay Banerjee, a virologist on the College of Saskatchewan.
All through 2020, testing was tough for Individuals to entry and few affected person samples have been being sequenced. Surveillance in animals was even worse; until this spring, federal officers explicitly beneficial towards routinely testing animals for the virus.
“Widespread testing wasn’t accessible, then there turned a scarcity of sure provides,” Dr. Behravesh stated. “So we didn’t need there to be, you realize, a mad rush to check animals.”
With out extra samples, it’s not possible to rule out the likelihood that the variant emerged in people, who then unfold it to mink, scientists stated.
An even bigger puzzle is how the taxidermist and his spouse acquired it. The almost definitely risk, a number of specialists stated, is that the variant was circulating extra broadly within the human inhabitants than was recognized, and the couple caught it from one other contaminated individual.
One other, extra speculative, risk is that they picked up the variant from one other animal species. “Taxidermists cope with different useless animals,” stated Linda Saif, a virologist and immunologist at Ohio State College.
However as a result of the instances have been detected “weeks to months” after the 2 fell unwell, testing any animals they might have been involved with “was both not possible or not indicated,” stated Lynn Sutfin, a spokesperson for the Michigan D.H.H.S.