Virus myths and facts

We have seen a lot of irresponsible myths, half-truths and falsehoods this week spreading around the various stories and comments about the “new” virus purportedly found in farmed salmon.

Sadly, most reporters covering this story seem too lazy to ask good questions or research the science for themselves, content instead to craft scary-sounding stories about viruses and possible health scares, because it gets eyeballs on screens and pages.

There are a few things we need to set straight, and hopefully this will be helpful to people who are trying to understand the issue, including the media.

Basic facts about ocean viruses

Basic facts about HSMI

Basic facts about ISA

  •  Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) is a disease of farmed salmon in Norway, Eastern Canada, Scotland and Chile.
  •  ISA disease has been proven to be caused by a particular virus, which scientists call the ISA virus.
  •  The ISA disease has never been observed in B.C. farmed salmon.
  •  The ISA virus has never been confirmed in B.C. farmed salmon.

Basic facts about testing for viruses

Myths and Facts

Myth: Dr. Kristi Miller found HSMI in farmed Chinook salmon. 

Fact: Dr. Kristi Miller found NO evidence of the HSMI disease in farmed Chinook salmon. Using PCR testing, she found the genetic signature of a virus which looks very much like piscine reovirus, which has been linked to the HSMI disease in Norway. However, the fish were not sick in any way that suggested HSMI disease.

Myth: Dr. Kristi Miller found HSMI in wild salmon. 

Fact: Dr. Kristi Miller found NO evidence of HSMI in wild salmon. Using PCR testing on wild sockeye samples, she found the genetic signature of a virus which looks very much like piscine reovirus, which has been linked to the HSMI disease in Norway. However, the fish were not sick in any way that suggested HSMI disease.

Myth: Samples of farmed salmon submitted for testing by Alexandra Morton are infected with HSMI.

Fact: There is NO evidence that the fish which were sampled for testing were sick in any way that suggested HSMI disease. What Morton’s samples show, like Miller’s, are that PCR testing reveals the genetic signature of a virus which looks very much like piscine reovirus, which has been linked to the HSMI disease in Norway.

Myth: Eating farmed salmon with HSMI will make people sick. 

Fact: None of the fish farmed and sold in B.C. have HSMI disease. And even if they did, eating them would not make people sick. Wild salmon and other wild fish in B.C. are naturally infected with a wide variety of viruses, and people regularly consume wild fish without getting sick from these viruses and diseases in the fish they eat. ALL farmed salmon grown in B.C. follows strict food safety protocols to make sure farmed salmon meets all food safety regulations and guidelines.

Read Kristi Miller’s words for yourself, and see how the opponents of salmon farming are twisting them to their own ends, sacrificing scientific integrity for sensationalism.

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5 thoughts on “Virus myths and facts”

  1. Kristi Miller only did the genetic testing and saw the piscine roe-virus. This does not mean that the fish have HSMI, but it does not mean that they don’t.
    She was contracted by the farm because they had on-going problems for over SEVEN years: jaundice, increased morbidity and deaths. That farm is being fallowed.
    It does suggest that there are some big problems going on, and the return for wild chinook recently in nearby river was FOUR. We should all be on the same page, really trying to find out if fish farms spread disease to wild salmon, or vice versa, not wasting time pointing fingers.

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