Seattle, United States – A fungal disease that affects bats named the “white-nose syndrome,” was found in a brown bat, on the outskirts of Seattle. The sighting was reported by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and it represents a cause of concern as the disease is only known to be present in the eastern part of the country.

An estimated amount of six million bats has been determined to have died from the disease caused by the exposure to Pseudogymnoascus destructans to this day. It is through pandemics such as these, researchers assert, that species extinctions are able to occur in very little time and without much warning.

In this October 2008 photo provided by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, a brown bat with white nose fungus is seen in New York. Credit: Ryan Von Linden – AP

Bats serve as means of pest control and they are an important link in the food chain of western-American wildlife. The fungus is known to sprout over a thousand miles away from the place where the small brown bat was found. It seems that cave explorers, hailing from the east of the country, carried spores that subsequently gave life to the fungus, thus infecting the surrounding bats that live in the nearby area. Until now, there have not been any case of a human or animal being infected with the disease.

The first bat diagnosed with the white-nose syndrome was found west of the Rockies on March 11th. The bat was found alive and unable to fly. It was taken to a shelter where it was examined until it died in the subsequent days. The disease was then confirmed by the National Wildlife Health Center. The appearance of the disease in Western U.S. has been a cause for concern, as the scientist didn’t expect that it could travel so far, by it being originated from a fungal spore.

The measures and their effects

Mollie Matteson, a senior scientist working with the Center for Biological Diversity, has stated that it was possible to avoid the spread of the disease. Six years ago, a petition was presented in order to impose the closure of every cave and abandoned mine within U.S. soil, and to restrict them to undergo only important activities.

The closure procedures were indeed performed, but only in some parts of Eastern U.S., The next step was to carry on decontamination protocols for those that frequently choose to visit mines, caves or any place where bats may live and hold the ecosystem. Although decontamination is an effective measure, its application relies solely on the person that entered the cave.

Source: Washington Post