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Viral hemorrhagic septicemia, or VHS, has historically been considered the most serious viral disease of trout and salmon raised in freshwater environments in Europe. Only recently has it emerged in freshwater fish in the Great Lakes region of the United States and Canada.
VHS is not a threat to human health; however, it poses a significant economic risk to private aquaculture.
Federal action was taken by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), who listed 37 species of fish that may not be transported live out of the eight Great Lakes states of Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.
The federal order also prohibits importing these live fish from the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec. The listed fish include numerous species of high commercial, recreational and ecological importance. The order, list of restricted species and other background information can be viewed at www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/aqua/.
The prohibition does not include dressed fish or fish eggs. However, private, state and federal fish hatcheries in the affected states as well as any other businesses that ship live fish across state lines can no longer transport the listed species.
VHS is a "reportable disease," which means it must be reported within 48 hours of diagnosis to the Indiana State Board of Animal Health (BOAH). Marsh said VHS is one of five such reportable fish diseases in Indiana and the world health organization for animals.
Since spring 2005, a number of fish die-offs attributed to VHS have occurred in Lake Ontario, Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair. The die-offs have affected muskellunge, smallmouth bass, yellow perch, bluegill, crappie, gizzard shad, freshwater drum, round goby and other fish species. VHS has also been detected in samples of walleye, white bass and other species that were not part of a die-off.