Letters to the Editor

Responding to concerns about spread of salmon virus

Recent letters about the infectious salmon anaemia virus (ISAV) provided conflicting information about whether salmon in British Columbia are infected. Most recently (Observer letters, Feb. 29) Catherine Stewart mentioned “heavy criticism levied on the provincial government’s testing methodology at the federal Cohen Inquiry.”

What Ms. Stewart did not mention is that among several laboratories that have conducted tests for ISAV in B.C. salmon, the provincial government’s laboratory – the Animal Health Centre – is the only one that has a certified quality assurance program. I am the fish pathologist at the Animal Health Centre.

When the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) reviewed our testing protocols and diagnostic results last year, they concluded that there was “no risk for ISAV.”

Ms. Stewart did not mention that after our in-house ISAV test was designed by a graduate student from Simon Fraser University, it was adapted and validated by two other technicians experienced in molecular diagnostics, and our microbiologist Dr. Sean Byrne confirmed that the test was designed to detect all known ISAV strains. As further validation of the reliability of our results, every sample we received for ISAV testing from Jan. 26, 2011, through Oct. 25, 2011, was also analyzed using at least two ISAV tests recommended, but not required, by the OIE. All results were negative – no virus.

From 2003 to 2011, the province tested more than 7,000 farmed and wild salmon for ISAV, and all results were negative.

This gives us a high degree of confidence that our salmon do not have known strains of ISAV.


Gary Marty

B.C. Ministry of Agriculture

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