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May 30, 2001

Shrimp virus poses no threat to customers

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Key players in the farmed shrimp industry met today to work out a joint response to the discovery of the Taura virus at a shrimp farm near Ladyville. While still awaiting a report on what transpired, we spoke to veterinarian Mike DeShield to find out just how serious the outbreak is.

Michael DeShield, Vet. Information Officer, BAHA

“It’s a serious problem because it cause a lot of economic losses for the industry. The virus can sometimes have up to forty to ninety-five percent mortality in susceptible species. So they can lose quite a lot if it gets really established in the industry.”

Stewart Krohn

“What is the extent of the infection now, and how easy will it be to contain it?”

Michael DeShield

“Well right now it’s isolated to the one shrimp farm up at Nova. However, we need to do a lot of testing of the other farms to make sure that it’s not as widespread in the other farms.”

“The virus is spread in a number of ways. One of the main ways is the movement of shrimp products, shrimp actually from one farm to the next. Shrimp farms have hatcheries and they sell post larvae and that stock the farms with that. So if the virus is in one of those organisms, and it goes into another pond, it can go that way. It can also go as far as the product as well in a shrimp. If somebody would take a shrimp, that’s infected and put it in another pond. There’s also some intermediate hosts, which may be implicated in the transmission of the virus. They have picked up infected particles in say birds for instance, in bird guts and bird feces, so it’s a very difficult thing if you’re trying to control that.”

While the economic impact of the virus is potentially large, DeShield had good news for consumers asking whether there is any danger in eating Belizean shrimp.

Michael DeShield

“No not at all, it’s a strictly shrimp disease, it’s a virus that affects shrimp. They get a little red tail, they get black spots on it and stuff like that. In fact the disease it wide spread throughout Central America, and they still export shrimp to the States. The disease has been detected in the States, and a lot of shrimp there, you know you may be eating it; the virus and you don’t even know it. it’s not a problem to food safety at all., so you can eat the shrimp with no problem.”

DeShield noted that if the Taura outbreak remains isolated it should be possible to eliminate it. If not, the industry will have to take steps to minimise the damage, including the development of Taura resistant species and the use of improved security measures at farms.

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