There are a variety of lethal viral diseases that affect shrimp. In the densely populated, monocultural farms such virus infections spread rapidly and may wipe out whole shrimp populations. A major transfer vector of many of these viruses is the water itself; and thus any virus outbreak also carries the danger of decimating shrimp living in the wild.
Penyakit Yellowhead disease, called Hua leung in Thai, affects P. monodon throughout Southeast Asia. It had been reported first in Thailand in 1990. The disease is highly contagious and leads to mass mortality within 2 to 4 days. The cephalothorax of an infected shrimp turns yellow after a period of unusually high feeding activity ending abruptly, and the then moribund shrimp congregate near the surface of their pond before dying.
Penyakit Whitespot syndrome is a disease caused by a family of related viruses. First reported in 1993 from Japanese P. japonicus cultures, it spread throughout Asia and then to the Americas. It has a wide host range and is highly lethal, leading to mortality rates of 100% within days. Symptoms include white spots on the carapace and a red hepatopancreas. Infected shrimp become lethargic before they die.
Penyakit Taura syndrome was first reported from shrimp farms on the Taura river in Ecuador in 1992. The host of the virus causing the disease is P. vannamei, one of the two most commonly farmed shrimp. The disease spread rapidly, mainly through the shipping of infected animals and broodstock. Originally confined to farms in the Americas, it has also been propagated to Asian shrimp farms with the introduction of L. vannamei there. Birds are thought to be a route of infection between farms within one region.
Infectious hypodermal and hematopoietic necrosis (IHHN) is a disease that causes mass mortality among P. stylirostris (as high as 90%) and severe deformations in L. vannamei. It occurs in Pacific farmed and wild shrimp, but not in wild shrimp on the Atlantic coast of the Americas.
There are also a number of bacterial infections that are lethal to shrimp. The most common is vibriosis, caused by bacteria of the Vibrio species. The shrimp become weak and disoriented, and may have dark wounds on the cuticle. The mortality rate can exceed 70%. Another bacterial disease is necrotising hepatopancreatitis (NHP); symptoms include a soft exoskeleton and fouling. Most such bacterial infections are strongly correlated to stressful conditions, such as overcrowded ponds, high temperatures, and poor water quality, factors that positively influence the growth of bacteria. Treatment is done using antibiotics. Importing countries have repeatedly placed import bans on shrimp containing various antibiotics. One such antibiotic is chloramphenicol, which has been banned in the European Union since 1994, but continues to pose problems.
With their high mortality rates, diseases represent a very real danger to shrimp farmers, who may lose their income for the whole year if their ponds are infected. Since most diseases cannot yet be treated effectively, the industry's efforts are focused on preventing disease outbreak in the first place. Active water quality management helps avoid poor pond conditions favorable to the spread of diseases, and instead of using larvae from wild catches, specific pathogen free broodstocks raised in captivity in isolated environments and certified not to carry diseases are used increasingly. To avoid introducing diseases into such disease-free populations on a farm, there is also a trend to create more controlled environments in the ponds of semi-intensive farms, such as by lining them with plastic to avoid soil contact, and by minimizing water exchange in the ponds.