HED: Virus identified as culprit in largemouth bass deaths
OXFORD - A virus is being blamed for the deaths of several hundred largemouth bass in Sardis Lake recently.
Dr. Larry Hanson, a fish diagnostician at Mississippi State University, has identified Largemouth Bass Virus as the culprit in the fish deaths that first began to be reported in September.
The disease affects only bass and has been identified at only a few sites in the Southeast. It was first discovered by scientists at Auburn University in 1995.
While not much is known about the virus, Hanson said it causes a buildup of mucous in the fish's gas bladder, resulting in bleeding, loss of balance and possible death. It apparently affects fish that are already stressed from environmental factors or poor handling.
It appears to spread from one fish to another in the water.
State officials are urging anglers to remove the barbs from their hooks if they plan on releasing their catch and to handle the fish with care.
About one-fourth of the 32,100-acre Sardis Lake was affected by the virus and officials said there was no threat to humans. The virus apparently cannot be transmitted to humans and any bass caught at Sardis Lake are safe to handle and eat.