No VHS virus found in Minnesota waters to date; concern remains high
Dr. Nicholas Phelps, Assistant Professor in the UMN College of Veterinary Medicine and MAISRC researcher, has found no presence of Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia Virus (VHSV) in Minnesota lakes and rivers near the end of his two year screening project with the Center. VHSV is a highly contagious virus that causes hemorrhaging, anemia, and eventual organ failure in susceptible fish such as walleye, northern pike, perch and bass.
As part of the screening effort, Dr. Phelps tested 4,522 fish collected from 36 popular lakes and rivers around the state, including Lake Vermillion, Leech Lake, Lake Minnetonka, Mille Lacs, and Pool 2 of the Mississippi River.
The deadly virus has been found in Wisconsin inland lakes and western waters of Lake Superior and has been associated with large scale fish kills in several Great Lakes states. The virus is spread by moving infected fish, water, and equipment from one body of water to another and from the natural migration and movement of infected fish.
State law requires bodies of water to be certified free of the virus before VHSV-susceptible fish can be moved to other lakes within the state, therefore tested lakes included those frequented by aquaculture and wild baitfish harvesters.
While no VHSV has been detected in Minnesota to date, the threat of introduction remains a concern for the state’s fish health managers who worry that an introduction could have potentially devastating impacts on the state’s aquaculture and commercial and sport fishing industries. Managing the spread of VHSV can be achieved with similar methods used to control other aquatic invasive species: Drain the water, dry the equipment, and dispose of bait.