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article imageU.S. bat disease continues to spread

By Tim Sandle     Aug 5, 2013 in Environment
The fungus that leads to to deadly disease 'white nose syndrome' that has killed almost seven million bats in the U.S. is continuing its spread westwards.
U.S. officials have confirmed that the bat killing fungus has reached Arkansas after samples taken from bats tested positive for the disease, according to KATV. The samples came from two different caves, where several bats were swabbed. The areas were Devil’s Den State Park in Washington County and a private cave located in southern Baxter County. Samples were processed at both the University of California Santa Cruz and North Arizona University.
The caves in Arkansas have been closed. Discussing the closure, Chuck Bitting of the U.S. National Park Service, told the Ark Times: " “People aren't happy about it. I don't blame them. I'm not real happy we had to do it. It's a big recreation activity, for a small portion of the population.”
Considering the wider implications of the spread of the fungus, Mollie Matteson, a bat specialist with the Center for Biological Diversity, said: "his is just the latest piece of clear evidence that the white-nose fungus is continuing to spread west. What’s troubling is that even though scientists are now able to find the fungus sooner, land managers in the western part of the country have still not widely adopted preemptive disease-containment measures. When it comes to the survival of America’s bats, they’re playing a dangerous game of Russian roulette."
Digital Journal has previously reported on the killer fungus affecting North American bats. The cause of the bat deaths is a type of fungus which grows as a white substance on the nose of bats and quickly kills them (hence the common name 'white-nose fungus'). The fungus has been given the name Geomyces destructans. The fungus was first identified in 2006 and since then it has been detected in 22 U.S. states and in Canada.
To date, there is no known vaccine or antidote against the disease, although scientists are researching for a cure.
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