KHV - the Koi Herpes Virus is Bad News!
This is a serious virus that WILL wipe out your entire collection if you contract it. It is as serious as cancer.
The Koi Herpes Virus or KHV is no joke. If you get it you WILL lose all your Koi (those that don't die are still carriers). Please, be extremely careful of this vicious disease..
KHV is a disease that is extremely hard to trace. If you get it, you will have a hard time proving where it came from and ultimately you will have no claim against anyone. The reasons for this are that KHV is a virus and it has two phases in it's lifespan. The first phase is when the virus is latent (or dormant) and the second is when it is active (virulent and killing your Koi).
In South Africa KHV is not a notifiable disease. Of course it should be, but it simply isn't. When in latent phase we do not have the testing technology to be able to detect the disease. We can detect it when it is active or virulent which is more useful than it may appear because...
Surviving fish of a KHV outbreak become carriers of the disease. As such they literally become ticking time bombs. As hard as it may be to read, survivors should be euthanased to ensure that the disease is eradicated. We understand this is easier said than done which is why we judge no-one. However, it is the correct and responsible thing to do if you contract KHV.
There are many myths and fallacies surrounding KHV which you need to be aware of.
1. Heat treating of Koi. You can heat treat sick Koi with KHV and increase the odds of their survival dramatically. However, survivors become carriers. It is irresponsible in the extreme for dealers and breeders to heat treat Koi and then to breed or sell from these carriers. It is only a matter of time before the virus activates and wreaks untold destruction in someone's pond - this could be YOU!
2. Activating the virus. Water above 22C is not sufficient to activate the virus. It might be. But time and again we have seen cases in ponds where KHV manifests itself YEARS after the most recent fish was added to the collection. Warm water and signficant stress on the fish and on the water are needed to trigger KHV.
3. Heat cycling. This is intended to cause stress to the Koi and induce KHV this way. In our opinion it's a waste of time. Rather chase your Koi around in your quarantine pond with your net and induce stress that way. You have a greater chance on inducing KHV.
4. Quarantining for KHV should be done by your dealer. It should take a minimum of 6 weeks and it should engage significant stressors on the Koi. Trust us, this is a lengthy, time consuming pain in the ass technique but it is the most reliable. Because KHV would wipe our business from the face of the earth we take it extremely seriously which is WHY our quarantine periods are typically 8 weeks or longer.
5. Vaccination.Koi can be vaccinated against KHV. Whilst this is true, it does mean some Koi will carry the virus. Naive fish that have not been vaccinated are at huge risk. Further, vaccination is not 100% effective - so a few percentages of 'vaccinated' Koi will make it through the system. That's all it takes.
Managing your risk
The secret to managing KHV is not to get it in the first place. Our entire business relies on this, with our stringent quarantine procedures there to act as a containment and backup plan to preventing KHV from ever landing at our doorstep to begin with.
It starts with knowing your agent, and your breeders that you buy from. It comes from over a decade of buying fish and the relationships developed over this time frame. Whilst we realise that it is only a matter of time before one day we do get a contaminated shipment, our risk management is such that we never buy fish from breeders we have not personally visited many times, and we never buy fish from anyone other than our trusted agents in Japan.
Japan has had serious cases of KHV outbreaks from small breeders to giants of the likes of Sakai Fish Farm - the biggest and arguably the most successful Koi breeder in the world. However, it is the response of the Japanese to the problem that engenders respect and our trust in their ability to manage the problem. Firstly, in Japan KHV is a notifiable disease. This means government HAS to get involved. It means that the affected fish farm is effectively quarantined and any and everything thing that gets in the way is simply eliminated. After that the farm is put on a close watch and tested for months before being allowed to sell Koi again. Many Koi farms have not survived this process as you can imagine.
Because of this we do not buy Koi from China, Taiwan or Israel. We import exclusively from Japan because we trust their system and because we have deep rooted long term relationships there.
If you get KHV
It's no joke. Watching all your fish die in front of you is not something we would wish on our worst enemy. It is heart breaking and you will get very angry over it. If we started a file for every case we heard and every lawyers letter we've read and every threat of legal action, suing etc etc we'd need an entire filing cabinet devoted to this alone.
It changes nothing. The result of KHV is always the same. Bitter recriminations, regret, feelings of guilt - you name it. Take our advice and avoid getting it in the first place. Ask questions about how your Koi have been quarantined. How long? Where? When? What stressors were used? Where exactly are the Koi from? Which Koi have been mixed with which Koi?
Quarantining is a lengthy, expensive process when undertaken correctly, which is why there are so few dealers that do it properly. There is NO benefit directly attributed to the dealer since any half witted disclaimer will obfuscate and nullify any claim you might have.The risk is simply passed onto you as the end user. Be aware of this.
Koi Herpes Virus
Remember that prevention is better than cure a hundred times over. Be sure that if you purchase Koi from a dealer that this dealer is certified KHV Free. Fortunately, the high standards of Japanese breeders have ensured that KHV is no longer a major threat as far as fish exported from Japan go.
BUT this is not an all encompassing guarantee! YOU must ensure that the Koi you get from your dealer is KHV free and the only way to do this is to ensure that the Koi is kept for a minimum of 6 weeks at a water temperature in excess of 24 degrees and significant stress being placed on your Koi.