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CONTACTS: John Hnath, 616-668-2132 or
Gary Whelan, 517-373-1280


LANSING--While jointly investigating a die-off of largemouth
bass in Lake George, which is located on the Michigan-
Indiana border near I-69, biologists from the Michigan and
Indiana Departments of Natural Resources discovered the
presence of Largemouth Bass Virus (LMBV).
The discovery of this virus in Lake George marks the first
time LMBV has been detected in either Michigan or Indiana,
and the furthest north detection of the virus in the United
According to Michigan DNR Fish Production Manager Gary
Whelan, LMBV is one of more than 100 naturally occurring
viruses that affect fish, and is closely related to viruses
found in frogs and other amphibians. Its origin and how it
is spread are unknown.
"The virus appears to infect other species of fish including
smallmouth bass, bluegill and crappies, but has caused
mortality to only largemouth bass," Whelan said.
LMBV was first discovered in the Santee-Cooper reservoir of
South Carolina in 1995 following a die-off of largemouth
bass. Since then, the virus has been detected in wild fish
from North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia,
Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Texas, Missouri
and Arkansas.
"There are few outward signs that a fish has the virus,"
said John Hnath, DNR Fish Pathologist. "The other states
have found the virus in lakes where there have not been
widespread reports of disease or fish mortality." Most fish
mortalities associated with the virus also involve other
stresses to the fish, usually warm water or heavy fishing
pressure, Hnath said.
Affected fish usually appear completely 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. Internally,
such fish usually will have bloated swim bladders, the cause
of the swimming problems. Red sores or other lesions
ocassionally may be seen on the surface of the fish, but
these are secondary in nature and not part of the virus
Although the disease may kill some bass, mortalities appear
to be self-limiting and fisheries appeared to recover in a
year or two in waters where mortalities related to this
virus previously had occurred.
The virus is not known to infect humans, and infected fish
are considered safe to eat. However, it is recommended that
you thoroughly cook all fish as a precaution.
"There are no scientific methods available that would allow
us to eradicate the virus or treat wild fish populations,"
Whelan said. "However, we are continuing to investigate the
outbreak of this disease, and we would appreciate receiving
any reports of unusual fish mortalities."
In the meantime, the DNR encourages all anglers and boaters
to do the following things that may help prevent the spread
of the virus:
* Clean boats, trailers, other fishing gear, and drain live
tanks and bait wells between fishing trips to avoid
transporting LMBV.
* Do not move any fish, live bait or fish parts from one
water body to another.
* Schedule bass tournaments during cooler weather so fish
will not be so stressed
* Report dead or dying fish to the DNR.
* Help educate other anglers and boaters about LMBV and what
they can do to help.

For more information about the disease in other parts of the
country, you may wish to visit the following Internet sites: www.fishingenet.com/Features/vgvirus.html and www.tpwd.state.tx.us/fish/infish/lmbvfacts.htm
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