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Killer white-nose syndrome reaches Kentucky bats

18/04/2011 21:22:19

RELENTLESS: White nose syndrome has spread to 16 US states and three Canadian provinces

Deadly bat fungus continues spread across US

April 2011: The relentless spread of a killer bat fungus continues across America, as Kentucky becomes the 16th state to find infected bats. A suspect little brown bat from a cave in Trigg County, Kentucky, was submitted to testing to the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, which confirmed it was suffering from white nose syndrome.

The Trigg County cave was one of five revisited by scientists upon confirmation of WNS in Ohio. hese hibernacula were rechecked due to their known proximity to infected sites in adjacent states. The privately-owned Trigg County cave is used as a hibernaculum by six species, including the endangered Indiana bat, and is a summer roost for the endangered gray bats.

Cave was home to 2,000 bats
Surrounding caves were checked within a 16-mile radius and no additional infected sites were found. Measures were taken to limit the spread of WNS beyond the Trigg County cave that is regularly used as a hibernaculum by more than 2,000 bats. These included removing and euthanising 60 highly suspect little brown bats and tri-colored bats as they were not expected to survive.

The disease was first detected in New York state in 2006 and has killed more than one million cave-dwelling bats in eastern North America.

Mortality rates of bats have reached almost 100 per cent in multi-year infected caves. With confirmation of WNS in Kentucky, a total of 16 states, mostly in the eastern America, and three Canadian Provinces have now been confirmed infected.

The most significant threat to wildlife Kentucky has ever seen
‘This is likely the most significant disease threat to wildlife Kentucky has ever seen,' said Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources commissioner Dr Jonathan Gassett. ‘It would be professionally irresponsible to take no action to stop or slow this disease. Bats are an important part of our natural environment, acting as pollinators and consuming mosquitoes and other insect pests across the landscape.

'We plan to aggressively manage this threat of white nose syndrome as it occurs in Kentucky in order to protect and conserve our bat populations.'

Anticipating the arrival of white nose syndrome in Kentucky, biologists have taken exhaustive measures to limit its spread.

‘We have had a long term partnership to address white-nose syndrome in Kentucky since it was first discovered in New York state,' said Mike Armstrong of the US Fisheries and Wildlife Service. ‘Now that it is confirmed here, we will continue to support the state in their research and management to limit the spread as much as we can.'

White nose syndrome is known to be transmitted primarily from bat to bat, but fungal spores may be inadvertently carried to caves by humans on clothing and caving gear. Both state and federal agencies took pro-active measures to limit potential human movement of the disease. These measures included increased education on decontamination procedures, surveillance, monitoring, and cave closures on private, State, and Federal Lands. All measures were included in the "Kentucky WNS Response Plan" developed in 2009.

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