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Think Out Loud

Salmon Virus Hits WA Fish Farms

Pete Springer/OPB

Infectious hematopoietic necrosis: that’s the name of a virus that was found last week in a Washington salmon farm for the first time. The company that owns the farm, Icicle Seafoods, had to slaughter its entire stock to prevent the virus from spreading.

The disease sounds relatively benign compared to one found in British Columbia last fall. It occurs naturally in wild salmon, and it’s safe to eat salmon that have the disease (in fact, all the fish Icicle slaughtered are headed to the grocery store). But salmon biologists warn that fish farms can act like petri dishes for diseases and that dense concentrations of the virus are particularly threatening to wild salmon populations. Juvenile salmon are making their way downriver to the ocean this time of year, and their young immune systems may be put at particular risk.


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