Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS)
What does it look like? At a low level of infection, fish might not display any symptoms. As the infection becomes greater, however, fish will display widespread hemorrhages (bleeding) throughout body surface (eye, skin and fins) and within the internal organs (swim bladder, intestine, kidney etc). Because of the bleeding, gills and liver might appear pale. Sick fish will often be listless, swim in circles, and are frequently observed at the surface of the water.
NOTE: Confirming VHS infection requires sophisticated laboratory testing. A diagnosis cannot be made based solely on observation because many different diseases of fish have very similar symptoms.
For more information, download the VHS flyer.
To date, VHS has caused large-scale mortality in
- black crappie in Budd Lake (Michigan)
- bluegill in Budd Lake (Michigan)
- common carp in Lake Ontario
- freshwater drum in Lake Ontario, Lake Erie and Lake Winnebago (New York)
- gizzard shad in Lake St. Clair, St. Clair River and Lake Erie
- Great Lakes muskellunge in Lake St. Clair
- round gobyin Lake Ontario
- white bass in Lake Erie
- yellow perch in Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair
VHS has also been confirmed in smaller fish kills in
- black crappie
- lake whitefish
- rock bass
- smallmouth bass
Species known to carry VHS virus include (The disease has not killed any of these species to date.)
- channel catfish
- Chinook salmon
- emerald shiner
- lake trout
- northern pike
- rainbow trout/steelhead
- rock bass
- shorthead redhorse
- silver redhorse
- spottail shiner
- trout perch
- white sucker
How does the disease spread between waters?
Where has the disease been found?
The disease has been found in Lake Huron, Lake St. Clair, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, Lake Michigan, Lake Superior and the St. Lawrence River in New York. The virus has also been detected in several inland lakes including Budd Lake in Michigan and Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is actively monitoring and testing for the VHS virus. So far the virus has not been detected in the inland waters of Minnesota.
If you would like to find out the most recent VHS infected sites call the DNR Pathology Lab at 651-259-5096.
Is it safe to eat?
The virus does not have any impact on humans, through direct contact or via fish consumption.
How can I prevent the spread?
Do not move live fish between waterbodies. DISPOSE of unwanted baitfish and fish parts in the trash.
Do not move any water between waterbodies. DRAIN water from boat, motor, bilge, livewells and bait containers before
SPRAY, DRY boat, trailer, and recreational equipment, especially after leaving known VHS infected waters.
If you catch a suspected diseased fish:
If you observe a fish kill:
(Information provided by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources)