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Annual recurrences of viral hemorrhagic septicemia epizootics in age 0 Pacific herring Clupea pallasii Valenciennes, 1847

August 18, 2021

Throughout a 20 year biosurveillance period, viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus was isolated in low titers from only 6/7355 opportunistically sampled adult Pacific herring, reflecting the typical endemic phase of the disease when the virus persists covertly. However, more focused surveillance efforts identified the presence of disease hot spots occurring among juvenile life history stages from certain nearshore habitats. These outbreaks sometimes recurred annually in the same temporal and spatial patterns and were characterized by infection prevalence as high as 96%. Longitudinal sampling indicated that some epizootics were relatively transient, represented by positive samples on a single sampling date, and others were more protracted, with positive samples occurring throughout the first 10 weeks of the juvenile life history phase. These results indicate that viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) epizootics in free-ranging Pacific herring C. pallasii are more common than previously appreciated; however, they are easily overlooked if biosurveillance efforts are not designed around times and locations with high disease potential.