What Is Whirling Disease?

Myxobolus cerebralis Myxospores
Myxobolus cerebralis Myxospores
[Photo: Author Unknown]

Whirling disease affects fish in the trout and salmon family. By damaging cartilage, whirling disease can kill young fish directly, or cause infected fish to swim in an uncontrolled whirling motion. This can make it impossible for them to escape predators or to effectively seek food.

Whirling disease is caused by a microscopic parasite called Myxobolus cerebralis. The parasite was introduced to the United States from Europe in the 1950s and has spread to many streams across the United States.

Learn more about whirling disease.

Source: The Whirling Disease Initiative

Wildlife Disease

Elk (Cervus elaphus) in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado [Photo: John J. Mosesso, NBII Image Library]
Elk (Cervus elaphus) in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
[Photo: John J. Mosesso, NBII Image Library]

Wildlife, domestic animals, and humans share a large and increasing number of infectious diseases. In the past, more attention has focused on humans and domestic animals and less attention has been paid to the role of wildlife in disease emergence. Contemporary diseases such as Avian Influenza, Lyme disease, H1N1 Flu, West Nile Virus, and other emerging diseases demonstrate the need for more focus on wildlife.

The continued globalization of society, human population growth, and associated landscape changes will further enhance interfaces between wildlife, domestic animals, and humans, thereby facilitating additional infectious disease emergence. In addition, habitat loss and other factors associated with human-induced landscape changes have reduced past ability for many wildlife populations to overcome losses due to various causes. This disease emergence and resurgence has reached unprecedented importance for the sustainability of desired population levels for many wildlife populations and for the long-term survival of some species.

Efforts are currently underway to minimize economic, social, and other disease impacts for the benefits of free-ranging wildlife and human society. The NBII Wildlife Disease Information Node provides access to comprehensive data and information about wildlife disease.

The following wildlife diseases have economic and ecological consequences in the Southwest region:

Learn About Wildlife Disease

Wildlife Disease Node logo
[Image: NBII]

The NBII Wildlife Disease Information Node is a collaborative project working to provide access to data on wildlife diseases, mortality events, and other critical information related to wildlife diseases. The audience is state and federal resource managers, animal disease specialists, veterinary diagnostic laboratories, physicians, public health workers, educators, and the general public.

Visit the Wildlife Disease Node to learn more about avian influenza, chronic wasting disease, West Nile Virus, and other diseases organized by species and type. Or, explore the Wildlife Health Monitoring Network, try the interactive maps, or search related publications.

Featured Resource

Whirling Disease Initiative logo
[Image: Whirling Disease Initiative]

The Whirling Disease Initiative was established by Congress in 1997 to conduct research that will lead to practical methods of managing wild trout fisheries.

The Initiative's web site is full of valuable information about whirling disease, including frequently asked questions, parasite distribution maps, life cycle diagrams, photographs, literature, and management tips.

The Mountain Prairie Node worked with the Initiative to create distribution maps, an interactive map, and a data repository for fisheries researchers and professionals.  Learn more about these projects.

The NBII Program is administered by the Biological Informatics Program of the U.S. Geological Survey
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