Funding will help prevent fish disease from spreading to aquaculture

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The Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is making $1.5 million in contingency funds available for activities to control viral hemorrhagic septicemia.

Many fish species are susceptible to VHS, which can cause internal hemorrhaging and death. Outbreaks have occurred in the St. Lawrence River, Lake Erie, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, Lake Ontario, and Lake St. Clair—and inland lakes in several states.

The APHIS contingency funds will go toward efforts to help prevent the spread of VHS into aquaculture facilities.

Control activities will include upgrades to the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratories to support confirmatory testing, as well as an educational campaign that promotes biosecurity efforts and addresses human activities that could spread VHS.

Surveillance efforts will focus on states in the Great Lakes watershed and surrounding watersheds. The USDA will develop cooperative agreements with states and appropriate agencies for surveillance and compliance activities. Surveillance data will help APHIS target future surveillance and regulatory actions.

On Oct. 24, 2006, APHIS issued an order prohibiting importation of 37 susceptible species of live fish from Ontario and Quebec. The order also prohibited interstate movement of the same fish species from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

On Nov. 14, 2006, APHIS amended the order to allow movement and importation of susceptible fish under conditions that mitigate the risk of spreading VHS. On May 4, 2007, APHIS amended the order to allow for catch-and-release fishing activities.

Additional information is available from Dr. P. Gary Egrie at (301) 734-0695 or Paul [dot] G [dot] Egrieataphis [dot] usda [dot] gov (Paul[dot]G[dot]Egrie[at]aphis[dot]usda[dot]gov).