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Cornell lab confirms deadly fish virus spreading to new species

ITHACA, N.Y. -- A lethal fish virus in the Great Lakes and neighboring waterways is approaching epidemic proportions, according to Paul Bowser, Cornell professor of aquatic animal medicine in the College of Veterinary Medicine. The viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus (VHSV), which causes anemia and hemorrhaging in fish, has now been identified in 19 species and poses a potential threat to New Yorks $1.2 billion sport-fishing industry.

"Its pretty obvious this is an epidemic even if it isnt official," said Bowser. "There are just so many species affected and so many mortalities."

Three new fish kills have occurred in 2007 in New York waters since the virus was identified in the Great Lakes Basin in 2005. In the St. Lawrence River, hundreds of thousands of round gobies have succumbed to the disease; gizzard shad die-offs from VHSV in Lake Ontario west of Rochester and in Dunkirk Harbor on Lake Erie also have been reported. This month the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources made a presumptive identification of the virus for the first time in the Lake Winnebago chain of inland lakes about 25 miles south of Green Bay on Lake Michigan; confirmation is pending. And millions of dead freshwater drum formed windrows of carcasses along the beaches of Lake Erie in 2006, all victims of VHSV.

Other species from the Great Lakes Basin area that have tested positive by Cornell include bluegill, rock bass, black crappie, pumpkinseed, smallmouth and largemouth bass, muskellunge (New Yorks No. 2 sport fish), northern pike, walleye, yellow perch, channel catfish, brown bullhead, white perch, white bass, emerald shiner, bluntnose minnow, freshwater drum, round goby, gizzard shad and burbot. Roughly 1,600 fish have been tested at Cornell since May 2006. Bowser suspects the virus may have originated from an infected marine fish off the Atlantic Coast and that the virus is still relatively new to the region. Other possible sources of the virus include the movement o
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Contact: Sabina Lee
607-255-3024
Cornell University News Service
18-May-2007


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