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GLIN==> Press release: NY Sea Grant urges common sense in dealing with fish, birds

Title: Press release: NY Sea Grant urges common sense in dealing with fish, birds
PRESS RELEASE: November 16, 2006
Contact:  Helen Domske, Coastal Education Specialist, New York Sea Grant, Buffalo, 716-645-3610; or David MacNeill, New York Sea Grant, Oswego, 315-312-3042
NY Sea Grant Urges Common Sense in Dealing with Fish and Birds on Shoreline

Just when you thought you had enough to worry about… along come botulism and VHS – viral hemorrhagic septicemia – to New York’s freshwater shoreline. New York Sea Grant coastal education specialist Helen Domske suggests using common sense to put fears at bay.

“Knowledge is power and learning what botulism and VHS mean in terms of human and environmental health issues can help ease unnecessary fears,” Domske says.

Botulism is caused by the toxin produced by the bacteria Clostridium botinulum. The naturally occurring toxin has caused health issues in the Great Lakes ecosystem. Botulism outbreaks in fish and fish-eating birds have been recorded for Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. One theory under study suggests that outbreaks in fish and waterfowl may occur when quagga mussels help transfer the toxins from lake sediments up the lake’s food chain. Ingesting the toxin produced by the Clostridium botulinum type E bacterium can harm humans who eat infected birds or fish.

“Hunters, anglers, shoreline users and property owners can apply common sense by not handling fish or birds that appear sick. We encourage people to get in the habit of wearing gloves when filleting fish or processing wild game,” Domske says, “and just as good practice we suggest developing a routine of not allowing fillets to come in contact with the fish’s digestive organs that will be discarded.

Another common sense suggestion for safely enjoying time and recreation along New York’s freshwater shoreline is to keep an eye on children and dogs. Do not let them play with dead fish or birds. If children do come into contact with carcasses, thoroughly wash their skin with an antibacterial soap. Such precautions are appropriate in the case of any fish, bird or other wild animal that is found dead or behaving in an abnormal manner. The general public should avoid contact with such animals and report observations to authorities.

New York Sea Grant is currently funding botulism research by Cornell University’s Dr. Paul Bowser and Dr. Rod Getchell, who are credited with developing a faster, safer, more affordable method for detecting botulism in fish. More information on botulism is on the New York Sea Grant website at www.seagrant.sunysb.edu/botulism.

Viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) is a virus affecting fresh and saltwater fish. VHS has been attributed to fish kills in Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. The only way to confirm VHS in fish is by laboratory testing. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) says VHS does not pose a threat to human health.

To reduce the spread of VHS, anglers should not transport bait fish from one body of water to another. All fishing gear and vehicles should be cleaned by careful application of an oxidizing solution such as a 10 percent chlorine/water solution or strong detergent before leaving a water area. This is especially needed in areas where the virus has already been found. Fish carcasses should be properly disposed of and not thrown into any body of water

The state DEC is working with Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine on a fish sampling program that tests fish from several bodies of waters for a variety of diseases. To learn more about VHS, see the NYSDEC website at http://www.dec.state.ny.us/website/dfwmr/fish/vhsv.html.

Whenever you see a large mass of sickly or dead fish or birds, contact the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Bureau of Fisheries. # # #