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$200,000 Available for Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia Research

US - NCRAC's Board of Directors has authorized up to $200,000 to fund research and/or extension activities pertaining to viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS). NCRAC is now seeking proposals for investigation projects of up to a two year term from qualified individuals.

A Project Review Committee (PRC) will select and approve who receives funding from a full proposal based on the individual’s or group’s demonstrated record of expertise, access to facilities required for the project and the investigations key objectives.

The PRC will comprise three technical and three industry representatives. The individual or group that the PRC selects will develop a project outline (proposal) that will also be peer reviewed.

Based on this assessment, PRC will then make a recommendations to the NCRAC Board of Directors. The projects will also be approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service.

The expected start date for the approved one or two year projects is 1 September 2008.

Problem Statement

VHS is a highly contagious disease of both fresh and saltwater fish. It is caused by an RNA virus with a bullet-shaped morphology, typical of a rhabdovirus.

Clinical signs of this disease in susceptible fish include internal hemorrhaging and death, but other species may become carriers and show no clinical signs. 

A sublineage of a VHS strain endemic to North America (Genotypye IVb) was recently discovered in a number of wild fish species in several of the Great Lakes. Species in this region, including muskellunge, freshwater drum, burbot, yellow perch, gizzard shad, and smallmouth bass, were not previously known to be susceptible to VHS.

Large-scale mortality among a number of wild species has been reported and there are serious concerns about the potential impact that  this notifiable pathogen will have on commercial aquaculture.

To help control the disease, the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) issued an emergency order on October 24, 2006. It prohibited the importation and interstate transport of a number of specified fish species from the Great Lakes region.

Further measures were introduced on November 14, 2006 to allow the interstate movement of VHS-susceptible species for slaughter or research under certain conditions. Permission was also granted for imports from Quebec and Ontario into the United States, as long as the fish met certain requirements. APHIS is currently working on an interim rule regarding VHS that would supplant the November 14, 2006 emergency order.

However, the emergency order and pending interim rule continues to affect trade and organisations involved in aquaculture, in both the private and public sectors, have acute concerns. 

More research is desperately needed on VHS. This is a sigificant health problem and it is hoped that these NCRAC funded projects will help to alleviate and/or minimize the impact this disease is having on the industry and aid the federal actions required to control it.

the Fish Site Editor

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