San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science
Infectious Hematopoietic Necrosis Virus Transmission and Disease among Juvenile Chinook Salmon Exposed in Culture Compared to Environmentally Relevant Conditions
- Author(s): Foott, J. Scott
- Free, Dan
- McDowell, Terry
- Arkush, Kristen D.
- Hedrick, Ronald P.
- et al.
The dynamics of IHNV infection and disease were followed in a juvenile Chinook salmon population both during hatchery rearing and for two weeks post-release. Cumulative weekly mortality increased from 0.03%–3.5% as the prevalence of viral infection increased from 2%–22% over the same four-week period. The majority of the infected salmon was asymptomatic. Salmon demonstrating clinical signs of infection shed 1000 pfu mL-1 of virus into the water during a 1 min observation period and had a mean concentration of 106 pfu mL-1 in their mucus. The high virus concentration detected in mucus suggests that it could act as an avenue of transmission in high density situations where dominance behavior results in nipping. Infected smolts that had migrated 295 km down river were collected at least two weeks after their release. The majority of the virus positive smolts was asymptomatic. A series of transmission experiments was conducted using oral application of the virus to simulate nipping, brief low dose waterborne challenges, and cohabitation with different ratios of infected to naïve fish. These studies showed that asymptomatic infections will occur when a salmon is exposed for as little as 1 min to >102 pfu mL-1, yet progression to clinical disease is infrequent unless the challenge dose is >104 pfu mL-1. Asymptomatic infections were detected up to 39 d post-challenge. No virus was detected by tissue culture in natural Chinook juveniles cohabitated with experimentally IHNV-infected hatchery Chinook at ratios of 1:1, 1:10, and 1:20 for either 5 min or 24 h. Horizontal transmission of the Sacramento River strain of IHNV from infected juvenile hatchery fish to wild cohorts would appear to be a low ecological risk. The study results demonstrate key differences between IHNV infections as present in a hatchery and the natural environment. These differences should be considered during risk assessments of the impact of IHNV infections on wild salmon and trout populations.