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Friday, April 13, 2012

Bat Plague Moving West

The deadly "white nose syndrome" that has been killing bats in the eastern United States is moving further west:
A fungal disease that has killed more than 5.5 million bats in the eastern United States and Canada is making its way west.

What's known as "white-nose syndrome" has now been diagnosed in three Missouri bats - the first confirmed cases west of the Mississippi, and St. Louis scientists say it won’t stop there.

Since white-nose syndrome was first discovered in bats near Albany, New York, in early 2007, it has devastated bat populations in the eastern U.S.. “Unfortunately, there’s not a lot we can do to stop it,” says Tony Elliott, a scientist with the Missouri Department of Conservation, who says he knew it was only a matter of time before the disease crossed the Mississippi River into Missouri.

That’s because white-nose syndrome is caused by a fungus that easily passes from bat to bat. The disease is named for the powdery white growth that can sometimes coat an infected bat’s muzzle and wings. The fungus penetrates the bat’s skin, eating away at the thin, semi-translucent membranes of its wings, tail, and ears.

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