Prevention for Aquaculture and Fisheries

Viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) is a severe disease of freshwater and marine fish recently found in the Great Lakes.

The VHS virus can be spread by the urine and feces infected fish, as well as ovarian and spermatic fluids. Water sources (e.g., ballast water, bilge water, live wells) or objects (e.g., footwear, buckets, nets) that become contaminated with these fluids can also serve to spread the virus to new locations or fish populations.

On-farm activities, such as the transfer of fish or gametes, or the movement of vessels or gear, may serve as potential route of disease spread.

Preventing the spread of the disease, and other aquatic invasive species, into aquaculture or fisheries locations involves a few basic steps.

  • Prevent entry of infected fish or contaminated water.
    • Purchase fish stock from reputable sources
    • Fish should be inspected by a certified fish health professional
    • If surface waters are used, screen the intake flows.
  • Remove dead or sick fish as soon as possible.
  • Clean and disinfect equipment and fish transport vehicles.
    • This should include buckets, nets, footwear
    • Neutralize and rinse disinfectant or allow items to thoroughly dry before reuse
    • Use infection control measures, such as foot dips and frequent hand washing, after contact with fish or fish production areas
  • Do not share equipment between sites or areas of the farm.
    • Have dedicated equipment for lots of fish or clean and disinfect equipment between lots.
  • Fish preying birds pose low risk, but may carry infected fish between water sources.

The USDA APHIS and many states restrict the movement of fish species susceptible to VHS to prevent the further spread of the virus to additional locations.

Learn about the USDA APHIS Federal Order, regulated states and fish species.

Find fish movement regulations for your state.

Prevention involves everyone!