Defra has released a consultation letter informing the public of its intention to make Koi Herpes Virus a notifiable disease in the UK.
The consultation outlines Defra's reasons for making the disease notifiable (as announced by Practical Fishkeeping in July) and invites consultees to comment on the type of disease control arrangements that might be introduced.
Unlike similar fish diseases, such as Spring Viraemia of Carp (SVC), there is currently no legal requirement to report suspected cases of KHV to the authorities.
Defra now proposes to use section 13(1) of the Diseases of Fish Act 1937 to make it a legal obligation to notify the authorities if a fish is suspected of carrying KHV.
This will give Ministers the powers to determine confirm the presence of KHV, designate waters as infected and place movement restrictions on those premises.
Record mortalitiesUp until this year, the number of KHV outbreaks had been relatively small and had been restricted to managed Common carp and Koi fisheries and suppliers.
However, this summer's heatwave saw the number of KHV outbreaks rocket to record levels with a total of 23 carp fisheries in England confirmed as infected.
Some fisheries reported losses of thousands of carp and Defra placed voluntary movement restrictions on the water in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus.
Recent reports from the Environment Agency suggested that more than 200 fisheries across the UK could have been supplied with KHV-infected carp.
David Mullin, Head of the Fish Health Unit said it has anecdotal evidence to suggest that there may have been many unreported mortalities at other fisheries:
"Any mortality events, if not investigated, increase the risk of spread of KHV and other significant fish diseases. We would ask all site owners/managers to co-operate fully in reporting unusual mortalities and remind them that they have a legal obligation to report the incidence of any notifiable disease to the authorities.
"Defra, Cefas and the Environment Agency would like to thank those responsible fishery owners and managers who had no hesitation in notifying mortality problems on their sites as soon as they occurred so that action could be taken to identify and control disease."
No controlsThe current lack of EU or UK legislative controls for KHV, means that the authorities currently have no powers to restrict the trade.
However, a new EU Directive on Aquatic Animal Health, due to be agreed by the Council of Ministers shortly, will list KHV as a community-wide control.
Member States have until August 2008 to decide what approaches they wish to adopt to control the virus, including containment, eradication programmes and how they will establish freedom from the disease.
Anyone wishing to respond to the proposal to make the disease notifiable should contact Defra before the deadline on January 30, 2007, and ideally before Christmas 2006.
KHVKHV, now formally known as Cyprinid Herpes Virus 3 or CyHV-3, is a member of the Herpesviridae family and has been responsible for mass mortalities in carp around the world, with Israel, Japan and South Africa particularly hard hit.
The virus can remain latent in infected carriers for long periods and only becomes symptomatic when the temperature rises to 15-28C. As a result, dealers are advised to isolate newly imported carp and heat-treat them for several weeks in order to trigger the symptoms.
Defra has funded a 1.3 million research programme into the virus to improve diagnostic tests and non-lethal screening, thus avoiding the destruction of valuable adult fish.