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A new aquatic disease is affecting a fish that for millions of people in Asia is an economic and dietary mainstay
Since 2002, outbreaks of a disease known as Koi Herpes Virus (KHV) have caused large-scale mortalities among cultured common and koi carp populations in several Asian countries.

As with most aquatic animal diseases, there appear to be no human health risks associated with KHV -- but the economic and food security consequences of the disease are worrying.

In the case of Indonesia, losses due to a 2002 KHV outbreak reached nearly $6 million, with up 95 percent of all farmed carp in the country dying from the disease.

Important as both food and export product

"Common and koi carps are important commodities, both as foodfish and high-value ornamental fish exports," says Mr Subasinghe. "Many rural communities depend on these species to support themselves."

"Think of carp in Asia like you would cows in Argentina, and you get a picture of how they figure in to the region's food system," he adds.

Wider problems?

Particularly worrying is the fact that KHV has jumped from high-priced ornamental carp, which earn significant foreign exchange as an export item, to the common carp.

"There is no way we can remove the virus from the large water bodies where there are huge populations fish farmers growing common carp," says Professor Shariff.

"Fish mortalities will continue to occur whenever there is a change in climate or other stress-triggering factors -- the eventual losses can never be estimated."

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Preventative medicine: dealing with aquatic animal diseases in Asia

A new aquatic disease is affecting a fish that for millions of people in Asia is an economic and dietary mainstay

Preparedness is key

Documents

Koi Herpes Virus: An Asian Problem? (pdf)

FAO/R. Subasinghe

A fish farmer in Malaysia examines a carp for signs of the KHV virus.

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