Thursday, May 7, 2009

National Parks Closed to Cavers; White-Nose Disease in Bats

A ProMED-mail post

ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases

Date: Wed 6 May 2009
Source: LA Times, The Guide [edited]

Caves closed in effort to stop spread of deadly bat fungus
Thousands of caves in national forests are being closed to visitors
in an effort to halt the spread of white-nose syndrome, a deadly
fungus which is decimating bat colonies and for which there is yet no cure.

An emergency closure order was issued last week [week of 27 Apr 2009]
by the US Forest Service for caves in 20 Eastern states, reports the
Associated Press.

A 2nd order covering the Forest Service's 13-state Southern region
should be issued later this month [May 2009]. The sites will be
closed for up to a year.

Researchers are uncertain if the fungus is being spread by bats or by
cavers, so they hope the closures will give them time to determine
how it is transmitted. "We don't have the answers at this point,"
stated Dennis Krusac, US Forest Service biologist. "If we have
answers in a year or sooner, we can open them back up."

Spelunking groups are taking the news in stride. "For a period of a
year, most people can deal with that," Northeastern Cave Conservancy
board member Peter Haberland said "The recreation aspect is probably
the least of our concerns," said Peter Youngbaer, of the National
Speleological Society. "Education will be key, because many people
who explore caves do not belong to organized groups."

Distinguished by white smudges on the muzzles, ears and wings, the
fungus was discovered 2 years ago among hibernating bats in New York
caves. The condition is decimating colonies, killing more than 90
percent of some, and there is concern it will spread nationwide.

Infected bats awaken from hibernation early because they have used up
their reserves of body fat. Leaving caves in search of insects that
have not yet emerged, they die during their quest for food.

Though the fungus poses no threat to humans, the decline of bat
populations may have a detrimental effect as the mammals help control
the proliferation of mosquitoes and other insects that could transmit diseases.

[Byline: Kelly Burgess]

Communicated by:
ProMED-mail Rapporteur Mary Marshall

Date: Wed 6 May 2009
Source:, Associated Press (AP) report [edited]

Lawmakers seek funding for bat disease research
Congressional members from 13 states are asking the Obama
administration for emergency funding to keep bats alive.

The lawmakers want to find out why a fungus has killed an estimated
half-million bats. They say white-nose syndrome has profound
implications for public health, the environment, and the economy
because bats feed on bugs that spread disease and damage crops.

There is no evidence the fungus threatens humans.

Chris Tollefson of the US Fish and Wildlife Service called white-nose
syndrome a priority for the agency, which has spent more than USD 750
000 on studies.

The states involved are Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts,
Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas,
Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Communicated by:
ProMED-mail Rapporteur Mary Marshall

[The disappearance of the bats is alarming and we seem no closer to
having an answer as to whether the fungus is the cause or the effect
of something else killing the bats. It seems prudent to close the
caves and see if anything improves. No study testing spelunkers or
their gear seems to have been done. Though I don't place blame on the
spelunkers, perhaps this will help the bats. That seems to be the
unifying goal. - Mod.TG]

[see also:
White-nose syndrome, bats - USA (09): (VA) susp. 20090427.1590
White-nose syndrome, bats - USA (08): (MA) 20090414.1413
White-nose syndrome, bats - USA (07) 20090320.1110
White-nose syndrome, bats - USA (06): (PA) RFI 20090311.1011
White-nose syndrome, bats - USA (05): (PA) 20090309.0975
White-nose syndrome, bats - USA (04): (PA) 20090306.0931
White-nose syndrome, bats - USA (03): (WV) susp 20090220.0711
White-nose syndrome, bats - USA (02): (northeast) 20090208.0578
White-nose syndrome, bats - USA: (Northeast) 20090129.0401
White-nose syndrome, bats - USA (07): (Northeast) 20081102.3448
White-nose syndrome, bats - USA (06): (Northeast) 20080331.1195
White-nose syndrome, bats - USA (05): (Northeast) 20080304.0898
White-nose syndrome, bats - USA (04): (Northeast) 20080304.0880
White-nose syndrome, bats - USA (03): 2004 Dorset bat colony gate 20080221.0709
White-nose syndrome, bats - USA (02): (Northeast) 20080220.0687
White-nose syndrome, bats - USA: (Northeast) 20080219.0675
Undiagnosed die-off, bat - USA: (NY, VT), RFI 20080131.0389]

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