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Fish virus in Northeast spreading to other fish species

Cornell researchers have found that a deadly fish virus detected in the northeastern United States for the first time in June in two species has probably spread to at least two more. But they have yet to determine whether the virus is responsible for the death of hundreds of fish in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River in recent weeks.

Over the past month, Cornell's Aquatic Animal Health Program at the College of Veterinary Medicine has been sent some 300 fish for evaluation. The frozen samples are from the fish that have been dying since late May and early June in Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. Last week, an estimated 1,000 dead fish washed up on the shores of Lake Ontario in just one morning.

Viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus (VHSV) was detected and confirmed for the first time in the Northeast in round gobies and muskellunge in June. Cornell researchers are awaiting finals results of tests on 54 fish of 10 species that indicated VHSV in smallmouth bass and burbot. To date, Cornell researchers also have tested for the virus in lake sturgeon, brown bullhead, rock bass, yellow perch, pumpkinseed and black crappie.

VHSV causes fatal anemia and hemorrhaging in many fish species but poses no threat to humans or other animals.

"The situation right now is that we still have fish dying in Lake Ontario," said Geoffrey Groocock, a postdoctoral associate at Cornell's Aquatic Animal Health Program.

"We have detected the virus in other fish species in the region, which may be contributing to the continuing fish mortalities. We are continuing to test samples as we receive them from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry Thousand Island Biological Field Station to try and get a clearer picture."

The researchers are using a classical cell culture technique to perform the initial stage of the diagnostic testing. Thi
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Contact: Sabina Lee
SSL37@cornell.edu
607-255-3024
Cornell University News Service
20-Jul-2006


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