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Alaska Salmon at 'Low Risk' For Deadly Virus, State Says

October 19, 2011|By Ted Land | Channel 2 News

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Alaska salmon are relatively safe from a highly contagious marine influenza virus according to state officials, who say there’s “no reason to panic” about a recent announcement that it could be affecting Pacific salmon.

“I would say the risk right now for Alaska salmon is low,” said Dr. Ted Meyers, a state fish pathologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Canadian researchers in British Columbia announced Monday they had found the influenza virus infectious salmon anemia, or ISA, in two juvenile sockeye salmon on the province’s central coast, the first time in the Pacific Northwest. The virus has caused devastating losses at fish farms in Chile.

Meyers said he thinks the results need further review, and that the state is “sort of in a holding pattern,” waiting for more information.

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Fish and Game does not currently test for ISA, but Meyers said they could easily develop a method if it became necessary.

Meyers said ISA is a virus mainly impacts fish farms, and that since Alaska prohibits the importation of salmon for farming, there is less cause for concern here.

According to the Associated Press, U.S. Geological Survey scientist James Winton calls the news a disease emergency. He says officials on both side of the border should step up research, surveillance and testing.

Contact Ted Land at tland@ktuu.com

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