White-Nose Syndrome confirmed in Illinois bats

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) today confirmed the presence of White-Nose Syndrome (WNS), a disease fatal to several bat species, in four Illinois counties.

The University of Illinois- Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS), the United States Forest Service (USFS)-Shawnee National Forest, the University of Illinois' Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (UIVDL), and the USGS National Wildlife Health Center-Madison, WI (NWHC) assisted in the discovery of WNS which was detected in LaSalle County in north-central Illinois, Monroe County in southwestern Illinois, and Hardin and Pope Counties in extreme southern Illinois.

Little brown bats and northern long-eared bats from these counties were submitted to the UIVDL and NWHC in early-to-mid February 2013.

Both of these laboratories confirmed the disease, while the fungal pathogen was isolated directly from a LaSalle County bat and a Monroe County bat at the INHS.

With confirmation of WNS in Illinois, a total of 20 states, mostly in the eastern U.S., and five Canadian Provinces have now been confirmed infected.

Currently seven hibernating bat species are affected by WNS: little brown bat, big brown bat, northern long-eared bat, tri-colored bat, eastern small-footed bat, the endangered Indiana bat, and the endangered gray bat.

The disease continues to spread rapidly and has the potential to infect at least half of the bat species found in North America.

White-nose syndrome is not known to affect people, pets, or livestock but is harmful or lethal to hibernating bats, killing 90 percent or more of some species of bats in caves where the fungus has lasted for a year or longer, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

WNS is known to be transmitted primarily from bat to bat, but spores of Geomyces destructans, the non-native, cold-loving fungus that causes white-nose syndrome, may be inadvertently carried between caves and abandoned mines by humans on clothing, footwear, and caving gear.

The name of the disease refers to the white fungal growth often found on the noses of infected bats.

White-nose syndrome was first detected in New York State in 2006 and has killed more than 5.7 million cave-dwelling bats in the eastern third of North America as it has spread south and west across the landscape.

A map of the current spread of white-nose syndrome can be found at http://whitenosesyndrome.org/resources/map.

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