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Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia

Help Stop the Spread of VHS

Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS) is an extremely serious and deadly infectious fish disease. It can cause large-scale fish kills, resulting in significant economic effects.

There are several strains of VHS, including the strain VHSv IVb, which affects freshwater fish species.

The virus DOES NOT affect humans; fish carrying VHS are safe to eat and to handle.

VHS is not in Saskatchewan, but the VHSv IVb virus was detected in fish from Lake St. Clair, Ontario, in 2003. Since then it has spread regionally to the following waters:

  • Lake Huron
  • Lake St. Clair
  • Lake Erie
  • Lake Ontario
  • Detroit River
  • Niagara River
  • St. Lawrence River
  • Lake Superior

Many native and stocked species of fish in Saskatchewan are susceptible to the VHSv IVb strain found in the Great Lakes, including:

Game Species

  • Walleye
  • Yellow perch
  • Northern Pike
  • Lake whitefish
  • Burbot
  • Lake trout
  • Smallmouth bass
  • Rainbow trout
  • Brook trout
  • Brown trout
  • Channel catfish

Bait Fish

  • Emerald shiner
  • Spottail shiner
  • Fathead minnow
  • Trout-perch

Other species

  • Common carp
  • Rock bass
  • Brown bullhead
  • Shorthead redhorse
  • Silver redhorse

VHS could be introduced into Saskatchewan by any method that involves the movement of fish, frozen bait fish, water, vessels or equipment that has had contact with the virus.

While leeches are not known to contract VHSv IVb, they have the potential to carry and transmit the virus if they have been in contact with infected fish, or are from VHSv IVb infected waters.

VHSv IVb can be spread by using frozen bait that comes from VHSv IVb affected areas.

Preventing the Spread of VHS

Anglers can help prevent the spread of VHS by using bait (frozen minnows and leeches) that has been produced locally. To help protect our waters from fish diseases, Saskatchewan prohibits the importation of leeches, crayfish and other aquatic invertebrates. Our province also requires that all frozen fish originating from the Great Lakes region of North America to be used as bait in the province be certified free of VHS. It is also important to thoroughly clean and disinfect equipment (boat, fishing equipment, fish gloves, etc.) before and after entering any Saskatchewan waterbody if coming from a known infected VHSv IVb area.

These actions will help prevent VHS from being introduced into Saskatchewan.

For further information contact the Ministry of Environment at 1-800-567-4224 or your local area fisheries biologist.

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