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Great Lakes Article:

VHS spread may be overstated
The Mining Journal
Published June 29, 2007


MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin natural resources officials said more tests are showing that a deadly fish virus is not as widespread as some had feared it would be.

But the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is requesting to make permanent rules aimed at containing the virus, which is deadly to fish but not to humans.

The hemorrhagic septicemia virus, or VHS, was found in May in fish from the Lake Winnebago system in east central Wisconsin. State officials later found the virus in fish in Lake Michigan.

Tests on fish taken from other regions have been negative, said Mike Staggs, DNR fisheries director.

‘‘We all kind of felt like, when it was announced that is was in Lake Winnebago, that if it was in Winnebago it could be all over the state,’’ he said. ‘‘And while we certainly aren’t ruling out the possibility that it’s in some waters out there, it’s not widespread.’’

Staggs said the fact that it has not spread shows new rules are working.

On Wednesday, the Natural Resources Board will consider a request by the DNR to hold hearings on permanent emergency rules aimed at curbing the spread of the virus.

The rules require boaters to drain all water from their boats and wash their boats when they leave a lake. The rules also prevent fishermen from transporting live fish.

The NRB is scheduled to take initial action on the plan on Wednesday. Public hearings could come as soon as August.

Staggs said this summer’s high temperatures have also helped fish suppress the virus. He said in warmer weather fish are able to more easily fend-off the virus but in the colder months, their immune systems are slower and less likely to fend off the virus.

Originally a saltwater virus, VHS made its first known appearance in the Great Lakes in 2005, killing the likes of freshwater drum and muskellunge. It has since caused fish kills in lakes Ontario, Erie, Huron and St. Clair, and in several rivers that link them.

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