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Press Release

October 30, 1997


Virginia continues to monitor the Chesapeake Bay, Virginia rivers and other waterways for signs of Pfiesteria by taking water samples and examining fish.

"We are using our best marine scientists to get answers as quickly as possible," said State Health Commissioner Randolph L. Gordon, M.D., M.P.H. "Virginia's seafood continues to be safe."

Although, Pfiesteria has not been confirmed in Virginia's waters the Virginia Department of Health, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Old Dominion University Phytoplankton laboratory and other agencies are taking precautions by continuing to sample Virginia's waters.   As part of the Chesapeake Bay Monitoring Program 14 sites are monitored monthly.  These sites in the Chesapeake Bay and Virginia rivers are monitored for Pfiesteria complex organisms (PCO) and other toxin producing plankton species.

Since August, a total of 135 water samples from 33 river sites have been tested.  Screening of water samples in August indicated high concentrations of PCOs in the Pocomoke river.  In September, 600 PCOs per ml and 150 PCOs per ml were found in the Rappahannock and Great Wicomico rivers, respectively.

Last week, VIMS collected water samples near the Surry power plant on the James River.  Samples from two sites showed counts of 2 to 11 potential PCOs per ml.

To date, VIMS Aquatic Animal Disease Diagnostic Center has examined 377 finfish.  Lesions from 59 of these fish were further examined by culture or special microscopic examination.  Scientists from VIMS continue to collect fish from selective sites within Virginia waters.

From late August to October, VIMS conducted weekly fish trawling activities in the Pocomoke River.  Two extra rounds of fish seining within major tributaries of the James, York, Rappahannock, Great Wicomico and Piankatank Rivers were conducted in early October.  Also, a new technique for collecting menhaden has been tested twice in the Great Wicomico.

There still have been no confirmed human health problems associated with recreational or occupational activities in Virginia's waters.  Eating fresh, unblemished seafood poses no health risk.

As of 4:00 p.m. on October 29, the Pfiesteria Information Hotline had received 141 calls since September 17:

  • 99   general information
  • 42   health concerns
  • 9 possible exposures
  • 33 unrelated health issues

For information about Pfiesteria or to report health problems call the Virginia Pfiesteria Hotline at 1-888-238-6154.  Callers should be prepared to leave their name and a number where they may be reached during business hours, Monday through Friday.

Last Updated: 03-29-2013

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