Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Fatal Fungal Disease Linked to Millions of Bat Deaths Confirmed in Texas

Animals
A bat with white-nose syndrome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park on March 12, 2012. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A deadly fungal disease responsible for the deaths of millions of bats across the U.S. has been confirmed in Texas for the first time.


White-nose syndrome (WNS) is a disease in bats caused by a cold-loving fungus known as Pseudogymnoascus destructans, which infects the skin on the muzzle, ear and wings of hibernating bats. Infected bats have obvious fungal growth on their body, but may also behave erratically both inside and outside of caves during the winter when they should be hibernating, according to the White-Nose Syndrome Response Team. The fungus that causes the disease was first detected in the state in 2017, but there were no signs of the WNS that it can cause, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). In the years since, the fungus has spread to dozens of sites in 21 counties. At the time, biologists said that it usually takes a few years after detecting the fungus for the disease to manifest.

The infected animal is a type of bat known as cave myotis (Myotis velifer) and was found in the central part of the state on Feb. 23. Analysis conducted by the USGS National Wildlife Health Center confirmed the presence of both the fungus and the disease that it causes.

"Finding WNS in Central Texas for the first time is definitely concerning," said Nathan Fuller, bat specialist at TPWD. "Biologists had hoped that white-nose syndrome, a disease that thrives in cold conditions, might not occur in warmer parts of Texas. We're following up on several other reports to determine whether this was an isolated incident or if the impacts are more widespread. We recently received a report from a site in Bell County of five cave myotis that we suspect were infected as well. We should know more in the next few weeks."

WNS was first detected in New York more than a decade ago and has since spread from the northeastern part of the country to the southcentral states at what the USGS calls an "alarming rate." It is believed to have been introduced from Europe where bats appear to be resistant to the fungus. The fungus is largely transmitted between bats but can be brought into caves on the clothing and gear of humans.

As of this year, millions of bats in at least 33 states and seven Canadian provinces have died from the disease. In some parts of the U.S., normally long-lived winter bat populations have fallen by more than 90 percent. Because many species only produce one offspring each year, experts say it could take decades for some populations to recover.

Currently there is no cure for WNS but scientists are collaborating to study the disease and understand how it spreads to infect bats, as well as what can be done to control it. Lab tests have shown that oral vaccines may increase the chances of surviving an infection, reports Science News. Evidence suggests that WNS only occurs in bats and is not transmissible to humans as the fungus only grows at temperatures between 41 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit, which is much lower than the human body, according to the National Park Service. No human infections have been documented after exposure to WNS-infected bats or caves.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Women walk from Santa Monica beach after a social media workout on the sand on May 12, 2020 in Santa Monica, California. Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Independence Day weekend is a busy time for coastal communities as people flock to the beaches to soak up the sun during the summer holiday. This year is different. Some of the country's most popular beach destinations in Florida and California have decided to close their beaches to stop the surge in coronavirus cases.

Read More Show Less
Daily fireworks in many U.S. cities in recent weeks have no doubt been interfering with the sleep and peace of mind of thousands of veterans and others who suffer from PTSD. Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Arash Javanbakht

For some combat veterans, the Fourth of July is not a time to celebrate the independence of the country they love. Instead, the holiday is a terrifying ordeal. That's because the noise of fireworks – loud, sudden, and reminiscent of war – rocks their nervous system. Daily fireworks in many U.S. cities in recent weeks have no doubt been interfering with the sleep and peace of mind of thousands of veterans.

Read More Show Less
Koala populations across parts of Australia are on track to become extinct before 2050 unless "urgent government intervention" occurs. Mathias Appel / Flickr

Koala populations across parts of Australia are on track to become extinct before 2050 unless "urgent government intervention" occurs, warns a year-long inquiry into Australia's "most loved animal." The report published by the Parliament of New South Wales (NSW) paints a "stark and depressing snapshot" of koalas in Australia's southeastern state.

Read More Show Less
NASA is advancing tools like this supercomputer model that created this simulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to better understand what will happen to Earth's climate if the land and ocean can no longer absorb nearly half of all climate-warming CO2 emissions. NASA/GSFC

By Jeff Berardelli

For the past year, some of the most up-to-date computer models from the world's top climate modeling groups have been "running hot" – projecting that global warming may be even more extreme than earlier thought. Data from some of the model runs has been confounding scientists because it challenges decades of consistent projections.

Read More Show Less
A child stands in what is left of his house in Utuado, Puerto Rico, which was almost completely destroyed by Hurricane Maria, on Oct. 12, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Jon-Paul Rios. Flickr, CC by 2.0
By Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope

To hear many journalists tell it, the spring of 2020 has brought a series of extraordinary revelations. Look at what the nation has learned: That our health-care system was not remotely up to the challenge of a deadly pandemic. That our economic safety net was largely nonexistent. That our vulnerability to disease and death was directly tied to our race and where we live. That our political leadership sowed misinformation that left people dead. That systemic racism and the killing of Black people by police is undiminished, despite decades of protest and so many Black lives lost.
Read More Show Less
President Trump's claim last September that Hurricane Dorian was headed for Alabama's gulf coast was quickly refuted by employees at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). An independent investigation found that NOAA's chief violated the agency's ethics when he backed Trump's warning and doctored map that used a Sharpie to alter the storm's path, as EcoWatch reported.
Read More Show Less

Trending

African bush elephants in the Makgadikgadi Pans Game Reserve in Botswana on Nov. 22, 2016. Michael Jansen / Flickr

More than 350 elephants have died in Botswana since May, and no one knows why.

Read More Show Less