Lake Champlain pike may have viral disease

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State warns that Lake Champlain pike may have viral disease

May 28, 2002

The Associated Press

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife is warning anglers not to eat northern pike and muskellunge taken from Lake Champlain that show symptoms of what is believed to be a viral disease.

The disease Esocid lymphosarcoma is not believed to pose any human health risks, but the department is still urging people not to eat fish that have gray, red or pink tumors that can be as large as an orange.

“We are making that statement just as a precaution,” said state fish health Biologist Tom Jones. “This is a fairly gross-looking condition. Any fish that appears to be clinically diseased or dead should not be consumed.”

Lymphosarcoma has been reported in fish for about 100 years and has been found in many locations.

“It’s uncertain if it evolved or if it was newly introduced,” Jones said.

In any event, anglers are being warned not to move fish between different bodies of water.

The disease spreads most rapidly during the spring spawning season.

It’s unclear how widespread the disease is among the pike and muskellunge populations. Only a small proportion of the fish are infected.

“I would say that it is a chronic condition. I wouldn’t consider it an epidemic,” Jones said.

Jones said the state first began receiving reports of the sick fish in February from ice fishermen. The most recent case was reported last month.

Lymphosarcoma is described as an infectious disease of probable viral origin. The disease has been recognized for over 100 years and has been documented in many locations in North America.

It is more lethal in muskellunge than in northern pike, which is a cause for concern because Lake Champlain’s native muskellunge population is smaller than the pike population.

The disease starts as small malignant tumors just below the fish’s skin and may develop into tumors as large as an orange. The tumors are soft and upon maturity can rupture and appear as dead tissue. Tumors can also spread internally into the fish’s organs.
 
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