Thursday, May 7, 2009

Icky and Pretty

I can’t tell you how many times I have passed the sign that says VHS Alert. Boats and Anglers. Do not move water or live fish (including baitfish) from these waters. It then says that VHS is viral hemorrhagic septicemia, a virus that infects fish not people. The sign shows some gross pictures of fish with swollen eyes, red, bloody organs, and splotchy skin. It goes on to tell anglers how to prevent the spread of this disease by making sure all fish and bait are dead before leaving the fishing area, cleaning out ballast water, and taking other precautions.

Why all of a sudden did I pay attention to this sign? Could the reason have something to do with the current scare about swine flu? Maybe, maybe not, but it is true that we have all been a lot more aware of viruses in the past few weeks.

VHS is not related to swine flu – or H1N1 Type A Influenza as we are now supposed to call it. Although they are both RNA viruses (which refers to the icky reproducing parts inside the virus), flu viruses have additional proteins on their surface. Those are the H’s and N’s from which the flu virus gets its more politically correct name.

Should I believe the literature about VHS that says it does not infect humans? Sure – for now. I am not suggesting that the next pandemic will be fish flu. However, VHS is an invader, which was first seen in 2003 in Lakes Erie and Huron. It is much smaller than the smallest zebra or quagga mussel and therefore may be much harder to control, and it can cause massive fish kills.

I read the sign carefully, and when I got home I checked a few facts about VHS on the web, which as we all know is the ultimate source of all good information. (I am not sure how to portray skepticism in writing – maybe it’s a smiley face winking). If you want to learn more, the Wisconsin DNR has a lot of information, as do the websites of affected states, US Department of Agriculture, the National Park Service, and of course Wikipedia. No lack of information – let’s hope that the anglers read at least some of it. And if they don’t, that they, unlike me, at least read the signs posted near the water and cleaning stations. But then, I am not an angler, only an angler-watcher.

A better part of my walk was passing the flower gardens. One of my neighbors was weeding a small patch of it and she seemed very happy to be sitting on the stone path, pulling weeds form the section of garden she maintains. Even though this is public property, volunteers keep it looking good. Here’s proof. Aren’t these daffodils beautiful? Further inland away from the cooling air of the lake, the spring flowers are already starting to fade, but not these. They are out in all their glory and it is much more pleasant to think about them than the organs of fish invaded by icky little clumps of RNA.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

African swine virus thrives in marine brown algae