The newly described piscine reovirus (PRV) appears to be associated with the development of heart and skeletal muscle inflammation (HSMI) in farmed Atlantic salmon Salmo salar L. PRV seems to be ubiquitous among fish in Norwegian salmon farms, but high viral loads and tissue distribution support a causal relationship between virus and disease. In order to improve understanding of the distribution of PRV in the salmon production line, we quantified PRV by using real-time PCR on heart samples collected at different points in the life cycle from pre-smolts to fish ready for slaughter. PRV positive pre-smolts were found in about 36% of the freshwater cohorts and a general increase in viral load was observed after their transfer to seawater. A reduction in viral loads was recorded when fish approached slaughter (18 mo in sea cages). Sequencing of positive samples did not support the hypothesis that outbreaks are caused by the spreading of a particular (virulent) strain of PRV.