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VHS: Aqua vets advise tougher biosecurity and prevention tactics for all

by the Fish Site Editor
28 June 2007, at 1:00am

US - Veterinarians and biologists are alerting anglers, aquaculture operators, fish dealers and boaters to a deadly virus that has recently killed thousands of freshwater fish in and around the Great Lakes.

Known as viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS), the virus has been detected in eight Great Lakes states and two Canadian provinces, and affects 39 different species of fish. Several of the species affected are favorites of freshwater fishing and are important in the aquaculture industry, including largemouth and smallmouth bass, crappie, bluegill and perch. The virus poses no threat to humans or seafood, but it is easily spread among fish and could have a devastating impact on fish populations.

There is no known cure for the virus, which causes bleeding of the fish's tissues, including internal organs.

A federal order issued by the United States Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) in November 2006 prohibits the movement of affected species from state to state unless the fish are tested for and documented as being free of the virus.

"This federal order has put a stop on the movement of fish worth many millions of dollars," said Dr. David Scarfe, assistant director of the American Veterinary Medical Association's Scientific Activities Division.

"Aquatic veterinarians are rallying to help aquaculture producers in testing and issuing certificates of veterinary inspection to demonstrate that their fish are free of VHS."

In the meantime, anglers and boaters are urged to take the following steps to prevent the spread of the virus:

  • Do not move live fish or fish eggs from one body of water to another.
  • Drain all water from bilges, bait buckets, live wells and other containers while leaving the landing or the shore.
  • Dispose of leftover bait in the garbage, not in lakes or ponds.
  • Clean, wash and disinfect your boat, bilges and all equipment using a bleach solution at a suggested strength of 1 cup of bleach per 10 gallons of water.

Further Reading

Viral Haemorrhagic Septicaemia

the Fish Site Editor