Bats are prone to various illnesses and diseases, just as all living creatures. But there is a disease that seems to only target cave-dwelling, hibernating bats. This disease is called White-Nose Syndrome (WNS) and it has killed thousands of bats. It was first discovered in early 2007 in New York. Bats at that time started evincing unusual behavior, like neglecting to hibernate or remaining active during the daytime in cold weather. This was an indication to scientists and researchers that something wasn’t quite right. After years of liberal investigation and testing, White-Nose Syndrome was given a name.
It started in the Northeastern parts of the United States, and continues to spread to the central parts to this day. More than 25 states have been infected by this disease since winter 2008, as well as, a handful of Canadian provinces. White-Nose Syndrome causes a growth of white fungus all over a bat’s body, including the ears, muzzle, and wings. This is where the name, “White-Nose” comes from.
When a bat is infected with White-Nose Syndrome, on top of white fungus growth on its wings and muzzle, it might also demonstrate certain signs and symptoms. For example, when scientists are determining whether or not a bat is infected, they will look for microscopic pattern of skin erosion, but they will also consider a bat’s behavior as another key identifier of the disease. When bats are not hibernating as they should, or flying far from their roosts in cold or hazardous weather, they are showing common signs of the syndrome. This doesn’t mean that all bats flying far from their hibernation roosts in cold weather are infected, it simply means that infected bats often evince this particular behavior. Severe emaciation is another indicator.
Several organizations and governmental departments are working together to stop this disease from plaguing even more bat colonies than it already has. The USGS National Wildlife Health Center, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, ivy league collegiate teams, and more have all collaborated to find a means to control this disease.
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