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DNR: Largemouth Bass Virus spreading in southern Michigan lakes


LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Largemouth Bass Virus appears to be spreading in southern Michigan lakes, the state Department of Natural Resources said Tuesday.

The virus is not known to infect humans, and infected fish are considered safe to eat. But all fish should be thoroughly cooked as a precaution, the DNR said in a statement.

Biologists from the Michigan and Indiana departments of natural resources discovered the presence of Largemouth Bass Virus (LMBV) in the fall of 2000 while jointly investigating the deaths of largemouth bass in Lake George, located on the Michigan-Indiana border near Interstate 69.

Since then, LMBV has been found in two other Michigan lakes, three in northern Indiana and one other border lake between Michigan and Indiana. The virus was also detected this year in lakes and reservoirs in Illinois for the first time.

The origin of the virus and how it is spread are unknown. Other fish species, including smallmouth bass, bluegill and crappies, can be infected with LMBV, but it has been fatal only to largemouth bass, said John Hnath, a Michigan DNR fish pathologist.

Infected fish usually appear normal, although they may be lethargic, swim slowly and are less responsive to activity around them. Dying fish often are seen near the surface and have difficulty remaining upright.

Upon internal examination, such fish usually will have bloated swim bladders, which accounts for the cause of swimming problems. Red sores or other lesions occasionally may be seen on the skin of the fish, but these are secondary in nature and not part of the virus infection.

The DNR said anglers and boaters can take these steps to help prevent the spread of the virus:

-- Clean boats, trailers and other equipment thoroughly between fishing trips to keep from transporting LMBV, as well as other undesirable pathogens and organisms, from one body of water to another.

-- Do not move fish or fish parts from one body of water to another, and do not release live bait into any water body.

-- Handle bass as gently as possible if you intend to release them.

-- Stage tournaments during cooler weather, so fish caught will not be so stressed.

-- Report dead or dying fish to state wildlife agencies.

-- Volunteer to help agencies collect bass for LMBV monitoring.


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