LAKE ERIE YELLOW PERCH AND FRESHWATER DRUM AFFECTED BY FISH VIRUS|
Infection appears to be waning; poses no threat to human health
COLUMBUS, OH - A viral infection caused an extensive die off of yellow perch and freshwater drum (also known as sheephead) in Lake Erie this spring, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife.
Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS) was detected for the first time in Lake Erie earlier this year. At this point, the infection appears to be waning and few fish have died in recent weeks. VHS poses no threat to human health.
“As the temperature of Lake Erie rises, the risk of fish becoming infected from VHS drops considerably,” said Jeff Tyson, fisheries biology supervisor with the division. “The optimal temperature for VHS to affect fish is 40 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Lake Erie water temperature is now in the mid 60-degree range and getting warmer.”
VHS is a relatively common virus in Europe and Japan where it has affected fresh and saltwater fishes, primarily salmon species in aquaculture facilities. Prior to 2005, VHS was known mostly in saltwater and estuarine systems along the east and west coasts of North America. The virus was first detected in the Great Lakes region (Lake Ontario) in 2005.
Significant numbers of sheephead were found dead in the Western Basin of Lake Erie, beginning in mid April. Later, a less-severe die off of yellow perch was detected in the Central Basin. Testing conducted by the division on both fish species revealed VHS infection. A VHS outbreak also has been identified as causing a die off of round goby and muskellunge in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence Seaway this year.