Bat-Killing Sickness Found in WA State, First in W

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Source:   —  April 01, 2016, at 1:34 AM

Testing verified the sickness in one bat found about thirty miles E of Seattle. The disease doesn't affect people or other animals, but bats are valuable because they eat mosquitoes and other insects that damage trees and commercial crops.

A fungal sickness that's killed millions of bats nationwide has spread to WA state, the first time white-nose syndrome has turned up in the western United States, federal wildlife executive said Thursday.

Testing verified the sickness in one bat found about thirty miles E of Seattle. The disease doesn't affect people or other animals, but bats are valuable because they eat mosquitoes and other insects that damage trees and commercial crops.

The news is concerning, though not entirely surprising because the fungal sickness spreads rapidly, wildlife executive say. It's killed more than six million hibernating bats in twenty-eighth states and five Canadian provinces since it was first documented nearly a decade ago in New York. Previously, white-nose syndrome had been detected only as distant W as Minnesota.

"We've been bracing for such a jump," Jeremy Coleman, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service'south syndrome coordinator, told reporters during a conference call.

Finding the sickness in one bat suggests others could be infected, he added. The sickness was detected in a tiny brown bat, one of seven species confirmed with the syndrome.

But it's not clear how long the fungus has been present in the Pacific Northwest, where it came from and how many other bats are infected.

"At this point, we don't know where the infected bat may have spent the winter, but it seems likely that it was somewhere in the central Cascades," said Katherine Haman, a veterinarian with the WA Dept of Fish and Wildlife.

Hikers found a ill bat in early March and took it to an animal shelter, where it died two days later. State wildlife executive map to monitor the area and urge people to report deceased or sick bats.

The bat found in WA likely belongs to a western subspecies of the tiny brown bat population, suggesting that it's unlikely to have arrive from the East, Coleman said. Unlike on the E Coast, the bats in WA are more frequently found in rock crevices, trees and buildings, rather than caves.

The syndrome is named for fuzzy white growth that appears on the noses of bats. It's transmitted primarily from bat to bat, although people can carry fungal spores on their clothing, shoes or caving gear.

State, federal, tribal and other groups are trying to figure out how to stop the spread of the fungus and to reduce the threat of the disease.

Scientists have been researching treatments, including changing the climate in hibernation areas to unhurried fungal growth and vaccines. Some Ltd field trials of biological treatments also are expected this year, federal officials said.

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