Epidemiology of epizootic haematopoietic necrosis virus (EHNV) infection in farmed rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss (Walbaum): Findings based on virus isolation, antigen capture ELISA and serology

R J Whittington, A Philbey, G L Reddacliff, A R MacGowan

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Abstract

The epidemiology of epizootic haematopoietic necrosis virus (EHNV) infection was studied in farmed rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss (Walbaum). Estimates of mortality during five outbreaks on a commercial farm from 1986 to 1992 ranged from 0.033 to 0.2% per day and total mortality did not exceed 3-4% in any outbreak. Affected fish were 0+ and less than 125 mm forklength. Clinical signs were non-specific, and laboratory examination was required to confirm the diagnosis. At the height of the outbreak in 1992, EHNV was demonstrated by virus isolation and antigen capture ELISA in 89% of clinically affected fish and 51% of dead fish, while the prevalence of infection in apparently healthy in-contact fish was 4%. Two and 4 months later the virus was not detected in a group of apparently healthy fish that had been affected earlier. Antibodies specific for EHNV were not found in rainbow trout from the infected farm; however, strong humoral responses were detected by ELISA in two immunized fish, indicating that the virus was immunogenic. These data suggested that EHNV was poorly infective but highly virulent in rainbow trout. Clinical EHNV infection was positively correlated with high rearing density and a low rate of water exchange, and therefore, with presumed poor water quality. Water temperature, which ranged from 11 to 17-degrees-C during outbreaks, did not appear to determine the incidence of clinical infection. EHNV infection in farmed rainbow trout was preceded by infection in free-living redfin perch, Perca fluviatilis L., in the water catchment, but it was uncertain whether this represented the source of infection for rainbow trout.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-218
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Fish Diseases
Volume17
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 1994

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