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Tilapia farmers worldwide under threat due to deadly virus – FAO

Tilapia farming around the globe is under serious threat after the FAO issued a warning for an outbreak of the deadly Tilapia Lake Virus (TiLV).

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) an outbreak of TiLV threatens the livelihoods and food security of millions of people, particularly vulnerable subsistence fishermen and small fish farms. Tilapia is a cheap source of protein and is cultivated by farmers ranging from smallholder size to more sophisticated commercial farms.

According to the FAO, the virus was confirmed in tilapia fish populations in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The illness is not a threat to human health.

“The disease is highly pathogenic, with no known control methods and poses significant threats to cultured and wild stocks of tilapia,” the FAO said in a report.

It warns that there is a significant risk of the virus spreading between and on continents due to the absence of bio-security measures.

“It is likely that TiLV may have a wider distribution than is known today and its threat to tilapia farming at a global level is significant,” the FAO said.

The FAO said several countries are still unaware of the illness, even though they have experienced significant mortalities of tilapia, without identifying the cause.

It said a reliable diagnostic test should be applied to any unexplained mortalities. Infected fish often show loss of appetite, slow movement, dermal lesions and ulcers, ocular abnormalities and opacity of lens.

The tilapia trade, both live and processed, between continents is thriving, especially between Asian countries like China and Indonesia and the rest of the world. This heightens fears that the illness will spread further.

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