Claim:   In the wake of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, consumers should avoid fish and seafood because it may contain the Zulican virus.

Status:   False.

Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 2005]

Seafood and fishballs

Reported in all Chinese media in HK.

Don’t eat fish for a while. Thousands of fish Died at Telok Bahang after the tsunami. Very dangerous virus called ZULICAN is spreading through sea food. So do avoid eating seafoods including fish balls.

And pass this onto friends overseas in Canada, Australia, Europe, Middle East. Where we are aware of this info in Asia, the unscrupulous will export the fishballs to destinations outside of Asia. Processed fishballs are ALWAYS made from deadfish. Trouble is you don’t really know if those fish died while having this virus.

When we eat fish balls at home and in eatery places, Fish Balls are always eaten lightly cooked for texture.

Origins:   This warning appears to have begun in early January 2005, roughly about a week after the 26 December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami laid waste to a number of coastal areas of


the world and ended well over 100,000 lives. It has circulated both as a text message passed to mobile
phones and as an e-mail spread online.

There is no such thing as the Zulican virus — this is a hoax, pure and simple. The warning has repeatedly been denounced as a fraud.

“That’s not true. That’s really a hoax,” said Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit of the Philippine Department of Health. Likewise, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) has told reporters “The Zulican virus does not exist,” as has the Malaysian Medical Association.

In India, scientists of the Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (CIFT) relied not only on their own expertise but also searched a number of available sources, including the web sites of the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control for information about the purported virus. They found nothing, and neither did we when we looked.

The fictional virus is but one of the false tsunami-related rumors adversely affecting the seafood industry. Another whisper postulates fish, crabs, and prawns are now feeding on corpses which were washed out to sea and will consequently pass diseases and bacteria from the decaying bodies to those who eat the seafood. This is not the case, because the roiling waters of the tsunami stirred up the underwater world as well as the surface of the sea, thereby making even more accessible to fish their normal diet of micro-organisms, plankton, plants, and other dead fish. Associate Professor Peter Ng, a crustacean expert and director of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research at the National University of Singapore, explains: “So the fish and crabs have plenty of their usual food supply and don’t have to resort to eating dead human flesh.” Should they inexplicably ignore the sudden abundance of their usual fare and instead turn to human remains for their sustenance, there is still no health and safety issue, said the AVA, because whatever they eat would be processed by them in the usual way, which means nutrients would be digested and absorbed to form part of the animals’ own tissue, and non-nutrients would be


It has been reported the “dining on rotting corpses” belief has caused the price of fish and seafood to plunge in many countries, with Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu the worst hit, with their virtually deserted fish markets vending seafood at one-tenth of what it sold for before the tsunami, yet still finding few takers. In Singapore, prices have dropped by half.

In Hong Kong, another rumor was loosed by the territory’s health chiefs, who advised the public to not to buy seafood from tsunami-hit countries as it might be contaminated by pollutants stirred by the waves. Prof. Ng dismisses that concern as baseless, saying the Andaman Sea and the Indian Ocean are vast and deep, so contaminants, such as heavy metals or waste materials washed into the sea, would have been diluted by the sea movement.

Thousands of fishermen have lost their livelihoods to these rumors.

Barbara “fish bawls” Mikkelson

Additional information:

        Philippine Department of Health on Zulican Virus   On Alleged Zulican Virus   (Philippine Department of Health)

        Health India on Zulican Virus   No Problems in Eating Seafood   (Washington Fish Growers)

Last updated:   18 January 2005


  Sources Sources:

    Ng, Sarah.   “The Big Asia Seafood Scare.”

The [Singapore] Straits Times.   9 January 2005.

    Tan, Theresa.   “Seafood Virus SMS Is a Hoax.”

The [Singapore] Straits Times.   3 January 2005.

    The Press Trust of India.   “There Is No Such Thing As Zulican Virus.”

5 January 2005.

    Xinhua General News Service.   “Philippine Health Department Denies Existence of Zulican Virus.”

4 January 2005.

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