May 12th, 2010
12:00 PM ET

Group warns of mysterious bat plague sweeping country

The disease baffling scientists has been called the white nose syndrome because it manifests itself as a white coat around the bat's nose.

Wildlife agencies in all 48 of the contiguous U.S. states have been put on notice after a mysterious bat-killing disease – white nose syndrome – was recently detected west of the Mississippi River.

The fungal disease, which has a 100 percent fatality rate, was first discovered in bats four years ago in Albany, New York, said Mollie Matteson, conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity.

The disease has subsequently spread into the Midwest, parts of the South, Canada, and most recently, Missouri, Matteson said.

Letters were sent to wildlife agencies to spur agencies to come up with response plans to stop the disease that has baffled scientists, Matteson said.

“It's absolutely devastating for the species it has affected so far,” Matteson said. The disease seems to strike only bats that hibernate, Matteson said.

WRTV: Bat disease keeping many Indiana caves closed

The disease, typically manifested by a white coat on the nose and in some cases on the animal's fur, has affected six species of the approximately 45 bat species in the entire United States.

But humans should be concerned.

“While we haven’t heard anything about transmission to humans, people can spread the disease,” Matteson said.

“They can spread it on their clothing and gear, because the fungal spores can be in the caves, particularly if people are crawling on the ground,” she said. “If they leave one cave where the spores are and go into another, they can contaminate it with those spores,” causing an outbreak, Matteson said.

A nonfatal version of the disease has been found in bats in Europe, Matteson said, but “bats here in North America have no defense.”

Although scientists are experimenting with various anti-fungal treatments, there is no known cure or effective treatment for white nose syndrome, Matteson said.

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Filed under: Animals • Environment
soundoff (126 Responses)
  1. Dave

    As one person said – they species esp. are very much needed for pollination – probably even more so than for eating insects.

    May 13, 2010 at 11:47 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Vinster

    thanks for deleting my fact based post while letting some idiots rant. Just becouse mine talked about the potential of fungal infections crossing over to humans, selfserving editor.

    May 14, 2010 at 9:54 am | Report abuse |
  3. James

    Here in southern Wisconsin we used to have 5 to 6 bats every year that would fly around and over our home. This year we have yet to see one! Neighbors on the opposite side of the lake have said the same. The mosquitoes are also extremely worse then normal, which is another sign the bats here are dying off... with everything else happening around the world, our days on planet earth just get darker and more frightening...countdown to extinction!

    August 6, 2010 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  4. The Corrected Perspective

    All, My fact based response showing several errors in the CBD interview was also removed.

    September 24, 2010 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
  5. John

    This is why we in Western PA are being overrun by stinkbugs–the bats usually eat them.

    November 21, 2010 at 10:20 pm | Report abuse |
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