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DEC Detects VHS in Dead Fish Found at Skaneateles Lake

June 19th, 2007 · No Comments · News

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced today that an ongoing fish kill of smallmouth bass and rock bass in Skaneateles Lake has been linked to Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS). Skaneateles Lake, one of New York’s Finger Lakes, is the second location where VHS-infected fish have been found in a New York waterbody outside of the Great Lakes. VHS has been previously confirmed in Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River, Lake Erie, the Niagara River, and Conesus Lake. VHS is a pathogen of fish and does not pose any threat to public health.

VHS is a disease that causes the hemorrhaging of the fish’s tissues, including internal organs. Often, infected fish do not exhibit any external signs of having the disease. The disease affects all sizes of fish and not all infected fish develop the disease, but can continue to carry it and spread it to others. There is no known cure for VHS. The impact of this particular strain of VHS on fish populations is uncertain. It has caused fish mortalities ranging from a few fish to thousands of fish.

On May 8, 2007, DEC staff investigated a fish kill of rock and smallmouth bass at Skaneateles Lake. Moribund rock bass and smallmouth bass were collected and sent to the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University for testing. The tests were positive for VHS, and fish have been sent to the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Lab in Seattle, Washington, for confirmation. Since the initial collection, sporadic die-offs have resulted in thousands of rock bass and smallmouth bass washing up on shore in various locations along the Skaneateles Lake shoreline. DEC continues to monitor the situation.

On June 6, 2007, DEC finalized regulations to help prevent the spread of VHS and other diseases into New York’s inland waters. The regulations restrict the movement of bait fish and the stocking of fish into New York’s waters. DEC staff are also continuing to sample waterbodies throughout the state for VHS to determine how far the disease has spread. Fish Health Regulations in Response to VHS

In addition to following the fish health regulations, anglers should be vigilant in keeping live wells clean. Live wells should be cleaned with a solution of 10 percent bleach to water (1 3/4 cups bleach per gallon of water). This will kill the VHS virus and other aquatic invasive species such as zebra mussels.

The public is advised to contact their nearest DEC regional office if they witness a large number of dead or dying fish (usually 100 or more). Questions about VHS and potential DEC actions to prevent its spread can be emailed to or for more information call 518-402-8896. The public is also advised to regularly check the Department’s website at for updated information on VHS in New York State.

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