Koi Herpes Virus

In six hundred words or less I would like to introduce you to a serious fish disease you might not be aware of.  Even if you don’t keep this type of fish, this disease could affect your enjoyment of the water gardening hobby, in the future.

This is a Virus:


You might recall that people and critters can be infected with things called “viruses”. For people, one of the “biggies” is Influenza or “the Flu”. Viruses spread from victim to victim by direct (or indirect) contact. Viruses spread pretty easily. Viruses are tiny bits of protein that eventually wreck the cells they live in, using up the cell’s “stuff of life” so they can make more virus.

Science has developed vaccines to warn the body of the virus, so when the virus hits the cells, the body is “ready” and fights off the virus. While we’re at it, ask your doctor about getting’ your Flu shot!

‘Turns out, there’s a virus which infects Koi and kills about every one of ‘em.

When Koi are infected with Koi Herpes Virus, within 5 days their skin blisters and peels. Then they die. The virus is dependent upon an “ideal” temperature to do its work. When the virus is over 70o F it is most efficient. The virus can “hide out” in fish which are under 66o F

In recent years, the number of cases of Koi Herpes Virus have increased. Already this year, there have been a few cases. We’re glad there’s a few things people can do in order to reduce the devastation from this virus:

The best way to prevent the virus from getting into your resident fish population is to quarantine your new fish. Instead of taking new fish directly home to your pond and summarily dumping them in, one would be rewarded to hold the fish by, in a separate facility to see if they’re infected with this Koi Herpes Virus or some other disease. If the fish get sick and die before you let them out of quarantine, at least you have protected your resident fish from their disease. There are ways to prevent and treat diseases in your quarantine facilities. These quarantine recommendations are in the “articles” section of NAWGS.org

If your fish get infected with KHV, all is not lost. At least for the time-being, we’ve discovered that by heating fish up to 86o F you can break the back of the infection, sparing most of the fish. We don’t know yet whether fish so heated are still infected or not. NAWGS will not officially recommend that these heated-survivors be mixed with un-exposed groups of fish.

Science is working hard on learning more about the virus. For example, if it’s really a Herpes virus, then it should stay around “forever” in the host. Right? These hosts are cold blooded, and so we can super heat them. This is something we cannot do with people or animals infected with other herpes viruses. Science would like to know if heated, and natural survivors are still carrying the virus. Science would dearly like to develop a vaccine for this virus, so that we can safeguard the fish we love to buy and keep as pets.

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