What is VHS and why is it killing fish in Lake Erie?

Fishermen on the pier in Avon Lake. (Source: WOIO)
Fishermen on the pier in Avon Lake. (Source: WOIO)
Dead fish float in Lake Erie. (Source: WOIO)
Dead fish float in Lake Erie. (Source: WOIO)

AVON LAKE, OH (WOIO) - Dozens of dead fish have been found recently along northeast Ohio's Lake Erie coastline.

Cleveland 19 News viewers thought a chemical spill in the lake from the Avon Lake Ford plant may have been the cause, but wildlife experts now believe that the fish kill is blamed on viral hemorrhagic septicemia, or VHS.

VHS is a serious viral disease in fish that has spread into the Great Lakes throughout the past several years. According to the Department of Natural Resources in Minnesota, symptoms include bleeding or hemorrhaging on the eyes, skin, fins, and in the fish's internal organs. Sick and infected fish will often lack energy and swim in circles at the top of the water.

The disease may be present in the area because of several factors. It could be spread as infected fish or water move from one body of water to another, whether that's done through natural fish migration or stocking and releasing fish.

Although the virus could have a devastating impact on the fish population, it does NOT impact humans through either direct contact or fish consumption.

The current virus strain in the area is affecting freshwater drum, also known as sheephead, according to the ODNR.

If you see or catch a suspected diseased fish, contact the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

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