Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council
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Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS)

Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS) is a viral pathogen that causes fish to bleed internally. Discovered in Lake Huron in 2005, the disease spread into Lake Erie and recently was discovered in Budd Lake, an inland lake in Clare County (in the northern part of the Lower Peninsula). Department of Natural Resources biologists fear the disease has also worked its way into Lake Michigan.

VHS is a disease that has the potential to devastate entire fish populations. There is no known cure or vaccination. VHS is not a native disease and like so many other aquatic invaders, is suspected to have been delivered to our waters in the ballast of ocean-going vessels. The virus has been found in 25 fish species in the Great Lakes region including walleye, muskellunge, whitefish, freshwater drum, and gizzard shad.

Photo courtesy: Garth Traxler, USGS

How VHS spreads

Infected fish shed the virus in their urine and reproductive fluids. The virus can survive in water for at least 14 days. Virus particles in the water infect gill tissue first, and then move to the internal organs and the blood vessels. The blood vessels become weak, causing hemorrhages in the internal organs, muscle and skin. Fish can also be infected when they eat an infected fish.

What you can do to prevent the spread of VHS

  • Learn to identify VHS
  • Inspect and remove aquatic plants and animals from boat, motor, and trailer
  • Drain lake or river water from livewell and bilge before leaving access
  • Dispose of unwanted live bait in the trash
  • Never dump live fish from one body of water into another
  • Report any suspected findings of VHS and the location in which the fish was
    caught to Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council by calling (231) 347-1181 or
    by e-mail at info@watershedcouncil.org .


Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council • 426 Bay Street, Petoskey, MI 49770
PH: (231) 347-1181 • Fax: (231) 347-5928 • www.watershedcouncil.org
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