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article imageDeadly bat fungus now in 22 states and parts of Canada

By Leigh Goessl     Mar 14, 2013 in Environment
A deadly bat fungus has been spreading across the eastern and middle regions of the United States and parts of Canada. The mysterious fungus has killed millions of bats in recent years.
Approximately 6 million bats have died since a mysterious fungus was first observed in February 2006. The name of the fungus is Geomyces destructans. Digital Journal had reported on this situation in Jan. 2012.
The fungus has now been identified in 22 states and five Canadian provinces, reported Scientific American (courtesy Mother Jones). Primarily it has been found in the U.S. eastern states and portions of the mid-west. Fatality in bats have also been observed in northeastern Canada, going as far west as north of the Great Lakes.
Also referred to as "white-nose syndrome" (WNS), symptoms show in the form of a fuzzy white patch that appears on the noses, wings and hairless parts of a bat's body. Bats affected are hibernating; the fungus thrives in cold conditions. There is a 70 to 100 percent mortality rate.
A new case has been noted in South Carolina for the first time.
"We have been expecting WNS in South Carolina," said Mary Bunch, wildlife biologist with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) based in Clemson, in a press release. "We have watched the roll call of states and counties and Canadian provinces grow each year since the first bat deaths were noted in New York in 2007."
Scientists observing the condition are not clear if the fungus is causing the deaths or is a symptom stemming from some other cause. There is no cure and several species of bats are affected.
There have not been any cases in humans or other animals, said the South Carolina Dept. of Natural Resources in its statement. It is said that humans could transport the fungus on clothing, shoes and gear and authorities are asking cave explorers and miners to be careful. Although, experts say bats moving from cave to cave are primarily spreading the fungus, according to a New York Times report last month.
Other effects of the fungus are the impact on the agricultural industry. Media reports indicate since the bats eat insects, studies suggest the loss of bats in North America could lead to a $3.7 billion loss per year in the industry.
Research is ongoing.
"White Nose Syndrome is arguably the most devastating wildlife disease we've faced," Michael T. Rains, Director of the Forest Service's Northern Research Station, said in a recent press release. "Forest Service scientists are conducting research to halt this disease and save bats, which are so important to agriculture and forest ecosystems."
Last month, Digital Journal reported a deadly fungus is also spreading through the world's frog population.
More about deadly bat fungus, 22 states, Bats, Fungus, White nose syndrome
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