This notice just came to me today from Cornell University, and I think that
it would be important for you and your membership to be aware of the
problem. I'm certain that it would be reprintable in your bulletins, as it
is a press release.
Please keep up your good works in a badly underrepresented part of our
Gary Meltzer in Hilo, HI
June 14, 2006
By Krishna Ramanujan
A deadly fish virus has been found for the first time in a variety of
freshwater fish in the northeastern United States by Cornell
According to experts-in-the Aquatic Animal Health Program-in-
Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine, the viral hemorrhagic
septicemia virus (VHSV), which causes fatal anemia and hemorrhaging
in many fish species, was discovered in upstate New York. It poses no
threat to humans.
In May 2006, the researchers, in collaboration with the New York
State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), isolated the
virus in round gobies that died in a massive fish kill in the St.
Lawrence River and in Irondequoit Bay, which is on the southern shore
of Lake Ontario near Rochester, N.Y. VHSV was also found in a
muskellunge from the St. Lawrence River in May.
VHSV is classified as a reportable disease by the World Organization
of Animal Health (OIE), which means it must be reported to OIE if
detected. The international agency usually imposes restrictions on
any host country with VHSV to prevent fish from being moved to other
areas and countries.
"If you think of VHSV, you think of the most serious disease of
freshwater rainbow trout in Europe," said Paul Bowser, Cornell
professor of aquatic animal medicine, noting that the virus does not
currently pose as great a threat in North America. "Right now, it's a
matter of trying to collect as much information and as fast as
possible so we can to notify the DEC so they can make management
Cornell's role is to diagnose and research the disease for the state
agency. Bowser and colleagues are trying to develop a rapid
diagnostic test, called a PCR (polymerase chain reaction), which
would amplify and detect small amounts of viral DNA or RNA in a blood
or tissue sample.
Although no management decisions have yet been made, the DEC could
recommend that boaters clean their boats before traveling from one
body of water to another and not dump bait minnows into open water
after a day of fishing.
VHSV was first reported in 1988 in the United States in spawning
salmon in the Pacific Northwest. It was reported in North American
freshwater fish in 2005 in muskellunge in Lake St. Claire, Mich., and
in freshwater drum from the Bay of Quinte, Lake Ontario, Canada. The
virus appears to have now traveled east.
"For the sport-fishing public, this specific virus does not appear to
be host specific to the species it infects," Bowser said. The virus
is known to infect round gobies, muskellunge, freshwater drum,
smallmouth bass, bullhead, yellow perch and crappie, but more study
is needed to determine all the species-in-risk. "The significance to
the sport-fishing industry is not known-in-this point."
Sport fishing for chinook and coho salmon is a $100 million annual
industry for the Lake Ontario region alone.
Ecologically speaking, the impacts are equally unknown. The virus has
the potential to alter the freshwater food web with both predators
like muskellunge and prey fish like perch and crappie equally-in-risk.
"In a large ecosystem -- we're talking about the lower Great Lakes --
there really is no treatment," said Bowser. "The best management
option is to try and contain the spread of it as best we can."
Hot summer weather impacts how the virus spreads because warmer water
can stress fish, thereby lowering their natural defenses and making
them more vulnerable.
Cornell University News Service/Chronicle Online
312 College Ave.
Ithaca, NY 14850
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