FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, August 4, 1999
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Deborah R. Kallgren, 804-692-0224
Suzanne R. Jenkins, VMD, MPH (804) 359-9909
TESTS POINT AWAY FROM PFIESTERIA AS CAUSE OF FISH KILL
(Richmond,Va.) - Scientific tests results support earlier findings that Pfiesteria piscicida was not the cause of a recent fish kill near the mouth of the Pocomoke River on Virginia's Eastern Shore. Pfiesteria is a microscopic organism which can produce a toxin harmful to fish and, potentially, to humans.
The tests were conducted on water samples taken from three Virginia creeks emptying into the Pocomoke. Scientists at Old Dominion University in Norfolk and at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro looked for evidence of toxins and at the DNA make-up of microscopic cells found in the water. All tests were negative.
The lab results provide more conclusive scientific evidence that something other than Pfiesteria led to the fish kill of an estimated 10,000 menhaden last week in Bullbegger Creek. Pitts Creek and Holdens Creek also were sampled for Pfiesteria and also turned up negative.
According to Suzanne R. Jenkins, VMD, MPH, Assistant State Epidemiologist and a spokesperson for the Virginia Pfiesteria Task Force, "Our first impressions pointed to low dissolved oxygen as the fish crowded into the creek as the cause of the July 22 fish kill. Other indicators were the absence of fish lesions, which previously have been linked to Pfiesteria, and low counts of Pfiesteria look-alike cells in the water," Dr. Jenkins said.
"Our scientists are conducting additional longer-term tests in the laboratory. We also will continue to monitor the waterways for any future sign of Pfiesteria," she said.
=In 1997 another fish kill in the Pocomoke River between Maryland and Virginia resulted in the deaths of an estimated 30,000-50,000 fish. In that fish kill, Pfiesteria was found in water samples taken from the Maryland portion of the Pocomoke River but was not identified in any of the Virginia water samples.