Early detection of SVC virus prevents outbreak in the UK

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Routine import checks by the Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI) that detected the Spring viraemia of carp (SVC) virus have prevented a potentially deadly outbreak of the disease.

Several of the goldfish, imported from China, died during transit and tested positive for the virus when screened by CEFAS/FHI officials. Movement controls were subsequently imposed and when tests from remaining fish where also positive for SVC, all animals were humanely euthanased.

Fortunately, as all the animals had been quarantined at a single site by the importer, the disease was contained with no possibility of spread to other sites.

A CEFAS spokesman commented: "This case clearly demonstrates the advantages to importers of maintaining quarantine facilities for imported fish."

Further imports will continue to be embargoed until Chinese authorities investigating the case are able to identify the source of the outbreak and guarantee the safety of future imports.

Although SVC is not dangerous to humans, it affects common and ornamental carp as well as orfe, pike, roach, rudd, tench and Wels catfish, with mortality rates of 80-100%.

Infected fish suffer from darkening of the skin, swollen eyes, abdominal swelling, pale gills, trailing faecal casts and protrusion of the anus. They may also be lethargic and show areas of bleeding in the gills and skin.

The Department for Fisheries and Rural Affairs (Defra) take a particularly firm position on the disease to keep the UK SVC-free: all fish are susceptible if they have not previously been exposed to the virus and as the UK is normally free of the disease, fish populations here are especially vulnerable.