Do imports of rainbow trout carcasses risk introducing viral haemorrhagic septicaemia virus into England and Wales?
A qualitative import risk assessment was undertaken to assess the likelihood of introduction and establishment of viral haemorrhagic septicaemia virus (VHSV) genotype 1a in England and Wales (E&W), via the processing of imported rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) carcasses from continental Europe. The likelihood was estimated for one import from an infected farm. Four main routes by which susceptible populations could be exposed to VHSV via processing waste were considered: (i) run-off from solid waste to watercourses, (ii) contamination of birds or rodents with VHSV by scavenging solid waste, (iii) discharge of liquid waste to mains drainage, and (iv) discharge of liquid waste directly to watercourses. Data on the biophysical characteristics of VHSV, its epidemiology, fish processing practices and waste management were collected. Likelihoods for each step of the four pathways were estimated. Pathway 4 (discharge of liquid waste to a watercourse) was judged as the most likely to result in infection of susceptible individuals. Levels of virus entering the aquatic environment via pathways 1-3 were judged to be many times lower than pathway 4 due mainly to the treatment of solid waste (pathways 1 and 2) and high levels of dilution (pathways 1, 2 and 3). Thirty-four trout farms process fish, of which seven have imported carcasses for processing. Compared with other processing facilities, on-farm processing results in a higher likelihood of VHSV exposure and establishment via all four pathways. Data availability was an issue; the analysis was particularly constrained by a lack of data on the prevalence of VHSV in Europe, volume of trade of carcasses into the UK and processing practices in E&W. It was concluded that the threat of VHSV introduction into E&W could be reduced by treatment of liquid effluent from processing plants and by sourcing carcasses for on-farm processing only from approved VHSV free areas.