Fish Health Center
Fisheries Resources
Pacific Region

Fish Health Program: Learn About Fish Diseases

Fish, like humans and other animals, are subject to a variety of diseases.  These include environmental and nutritional diseases as well as infectious diseases  caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites.  Under natural conditions, fish are exposed to diseases and sometimes get sick or die. Hatchery fish are exposed to the same diseases as fish in the wild but they may be more susceptible because the  fish are closer together or because environmental conditions in the hatchery may not be the same as in their natural environment.   Fish Health Program personnel work with hatchery personnel to help reduce stressful conditions and prevent disease outbreaks. Staff may also recommend treatments such as antibiotics and vaccines but these methods are only used when there is no other way to save the lives of the fish. 
Bacterial Kidney Disease Some infectious diseases are common in the wild fish and waters of the Pacific Northwest and are occasionally seen on hatcheries:
  • Bacterial kidney disease (Renibacterium salmoninarum) (image)
  • Coldwater disease (info; image)
  • Furunculosis (image)
  • Protozoan parasites (image)
  • Water molds (image)

Other infectious diseases are present, but relatively rare, and we work very hard to prevent their introduction and movement:

  • Whirling disease (info: image)
  • Infectious Haematopoietic Necrosis (IHN) virus (info; image)
  • Pacific Northwest strain, Viral Haemorrhagic Septicaemia (VHS) virus (info; image)

There are also infectious diseases, very rare or not known to be present in the region, that we look for and do all that we can to prevent their introduction:
  • Infectious Pancreatic Necrosis (IPN) virus (info; image)
  • Infectious Salmon Anaemia (ISA) virus (info; image)
  • Oncorhynchus masou Virus (OMV) disease (info; image)
  • Great Lakes and European strains of VHS virus (info; image)

We also monitor for and work to prevent certain non-infectious diseases which can pose fish health challenges:
  • Gas bubble disease (image)
  • Sunburn (image)
  • Coagulated yolk disease (info)

Other resources for fish diseases and pathogens that affect the health of Pacific Northwest fish:

  • (non-USFWS site: sponsored by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Oregon State University)

About Our Program

The veterinarians and biologists of the Pacific Region Fish Heath Program protect the health of salmon on Service and many tribal fish hatcheries, and also work to detect and mitigate disease problems in fish populations living in the wild. Historically the Pacific Region operated three Regional Fish Health Centers, but in 2017 the laboratory functions of these Centers were consolidated and collectively renamed the “Pacific Region Fish Health Program.” The program is managed by Dr. Andrew E. Goodwin.

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