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Deadly Virus Hits Popular Lake in US

Wisconsin authorities in the US will be anxiously awaiting reports later this week on whether fish in Lake Winnebago have been infected by the deadly viral hemorrhagic septicemia.

Officials from the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) confirmed that two fish from an adjoining smaller lake had been infected with the virus and ordered closure of the lock that separates Lake Winnebago from the smaller one.

Little Lake Butte des Morts is the first occurrence of the virus in Wisconsins inland waters. The state is now testing suspect fish from Winnebago.

The virus has already killed thousands of fish in the Great Lakes, a group of five large lakes in North America on the Canada-United States border. They are the largest group of fresh water lakes on Earth.

If tests confirm the virus in Lake Winnebago, keeping the lock closed wont do any good. It will already be too late.

If the disease is in Lake Winnebago, then there is nothing to be gained by having the lock closed, DNR Fisheries Director Mike Staggs said Sunday. If the tests are negative, however, the lock could remain closed for as long as a month. We dont generally declare the sample doesnt have the virus until weve waited 30 days or so.

The virus shows up in infected waters as they warm in the spring. It debuted in the Great Lakes in 2005. The virus afflicts more than 25 confirmed species of fish, but is apparently harmless to humans. Infected fish bleed to death. There is no known treatment for either the fish or the infested body of water.

Fishing enthusiast Dick Koerner, Neenah, is worried about what the virus could mean to Lake Winnebagos vulnerable sturgeon population. He was at a meeting of anglers in Cable, Wis., Saturday when he heard the bad news about Little Lake Butte des Morts.

My first thought was the sturgeon, Koerner said. A female sturgeon doesnt spawn until shes about 25. Its 15
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