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For Release: Friday, May 26, 2017

DEC Announces Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia Linked to Cayuga Lake Fish Kill

Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS) has been connected to a fish kill involving thousands of round gobies in Cayuga Lake, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced today. VHS can cause hemorrhaging of fish tissue, including internal organs, and can cause the death of infected fish. It does not pose any threat to human health.

Cornell University confirmed VHS was present in fish samples collected by DEC on May 12. VHS is a deadly and persistent virus of fresh and saltwater fish that has been causing disease issues in the Great Lakes and connected waters since 2003. It was first documented in New York in 2006. VHS has not been linked to a fish kill in the Finger Lakes in almost a decade and this is the first discovery of the presence of this virus in Cayuga Lake.

VHS is currently responsible for an ongoing fish kill in Lake St. Claire in Michigan and western Lake Erie.

Water temperatures have been optimal for the virus this spring as it replicates prominently in water temperatures between 50˚ and 58˚ F. Mortalities usually continue until the water warms above that range. VHS can be spread through a variety of means, including the moving of potentially infected fish from one waterbody to another. This can be done by stocking or the use of bait fish.

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "Anglers play a key role in preventing the spread of VHS. We encourage anglers to vigilantly follow the regulations prohibiting the movement of baitfish and other fish between waters to protect New York's high quality fishing."

To help prevent the spread of VHS, anglers and boaters should:

  • follow baitfish regulations developed to prevent the spread of harmful fish diseases;
  • only release baitfish into the waterbody it was taken from;
  • not discard unused bait purchased commercially into any body of water;
  • not move fish from one water body to another;
  • not dispose of fish carcasses or by-products in any body of water; and
  • Inspect, Drain and Dry and Disinfect boats and gear before moving to another water.

DEC routinely collects and tests fish from approximately 30 waters annually to screen for VHS and other harmful diseases. People can help DEC monitor the health of New York's fish populations by reporting any large number of dead or dying fish (usually 100 or more) to the nearest DEC regional office (ask for the Bureau of Fisheries) or the Rome Fish Disease Control Unit at (315) 337-0910.

For further information visit the DEC VHS in New York web page or contact Andrew Noyes or Geofrey Eckerlin, Rome Fish Disease Control Unit, (315) 337-0910.

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