On July 27, 2015, whirling disease was confirmed in rainbow trout collected from Watauga River in Watauga County– the first occurrence of the disease in North Carolina. Whirling disease affects fish in the trout and salmon family with rainbow and brook trout, two species found in North Carolina waters, being the most susceptible. The disease, caused by the microscopic parasite Myxobolus cerebralis, damages cartilage and skeletal tissue in trout, causing them to swim in a whirling motion.
While often fatal to juvenile trout, the disease does not infect humans or pets, and eating an infected fish is not known to cause any harmful effects.
Over the next few weeks, Wildlife Commission staff will be collecting trout from Commission-owned hatcheries, as well as from the Watauga River and tributary streams. Staff will send the collected fish to the Fish Disease Laboratory at Auburn University for testing. Staff is working closely with N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to sample commercial aquaculture operations in the area where the infected trout were found.
Bookmark this page and check back frequently as we will update this page as test results and more information about whirling disease in North Carolina becomes available.