No new VHS cases discovered in N.Y.

Albany – There’s been some good news on the VHS front this
spring and summer.

No news at all.

Perhaps a bit surprisingly, no new cases of the fish-killing
virus have been identified in New York into early July, DEC
officials said.

“We’ve just seen the usual spring fish kills, and none of them
have been related to VHS,” DEC Fisheries Bureau Chief Steve Hurst
said earlier this month. “So there’s no sign of VHS yet, knock on
wood.”

DEC officials had braced for additional cases of VHS – Viral
Hemorrhagic Septicemia – after its discovery in New York waters in
2006, and additional cases last year.

VHS was responsible for fish kills in Lake Erie and Lake
Ontario, as well as the St. Lawrence and Niagara Rivers. The St.
Lawrence case was perhaps the most significant from an angling
perspective, with numerous adult muskies dying.

The virus then jumped outside the Great Lakes system, which
cases involving Conesus Lake walleye, Skaneateles Lake, the
Seneca-Cayuga Canal and a private pond in Niagara County. It was
also seen a the Little Salmon River, a tributary to Lake
Ontario.

Additional species were affected in that outbreak, including a
rainbow trout on the Little Salmon River, a lake trout in
Skaneateles Lake and koi carp in the private pond.

DEC officials have theorized that the movement of baitfish from
one body of water to another may be the primary factor in the
spread of VHS. As a result, the state imposed a series of
regulations designed to avoid that, limiting anglers to fishing
with certified, disease-free bait and prohibiting overland
transport of other baitfish.

Hurst said recently New York’s regulations, criticized by some
anglers and baitfish sellers as too restrictive, have been used as
a model by other states – notably in the Midwest – as VHS arrives
there.

He added that DEC will continue to test waters across the state
for the presence of VHS and other diseases. “We’re doing 52 waters
this year, and have seen no VHS cases at this point,” Hurst
said.

Relatively common in Europe and Japan, VHS causes internal
bleeding in fish but is believed to pose no threat to humans. Signs
of diseased fish may include bleeding, odd behavior, bulging eyes,
bloated bellies and rapid die-offs.

Hurst said he doesn’t see DEC softening its VHS regulations in
light of the lack of new cases of the virus.

“We’re going to err on the side of caution,” he said.

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