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Readers Want to Know...

Q: Can fish build up immunity to VHSV... it is a virus?

A: "Yes–and that may be why we haven't seen another round of fish die-offs [in the Great Lakes region]." - Jim Winton, U.S. Geological Survey Microbiologist

According to Jim Winton, a microbiologist and section chief for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Western Fisheries Research Center in Seattle, diseases like Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia virus (VHSV) run their course just as they do in human populations. At first mortalities may appear to be large, but many biologists believe that most fish can survive the disease if they are not otherwise stressed, because mortalities generally occur in weaker, stressed fish. The remainder will build up a natural immunity to the virus and the numbers of fish killed by the virus will decline. Minnesota has not seen VHSV fish die-offs, but some other Great Lakes have. VHSV has been detected in Lake Superior fish in 2009, but large die-offs have not yet ensued. - Wisconsin Sea Grant, www.seagrant.wisc.edu

By Sea Grant Staff
March 2010

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