Monday 4 April 2016

Concern as US bat-killing disease jumps to west coast

By Mark KinverEnvironment reporter, BBC News
31 March 2016

Wildlife officials say they are extremely concerned after a disease that has killed millions of bats has arrived on the Pacific coast of the US.

Until now, white-nose syndrome has only been recorded in the eastern US but the latest case means the fungal infection has jumped 1,300 miles (2,100km).

The killer pathogen, first recorded in New York in 2006, is now present in 28 states and five Canadian provinces.

It has been described as the worst US wildlife health crisis in recent years.

On 11 March, a hiker discovered a sick little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) while walking in Washington state and handed it in to a local animal welfare centre. Two days later, the bat died.

While carrying out an examination, the centre's vet noticed visual symptoms consistent with the disease and it was decided to run tests on the dead bat.

David Blehert, from the US Geological Survey's (USGS) National Wildlife Center, said samples returned "strongly positive" results.

He added: "We have also cultured the fungus... from tissues of the bat, and work that we are continuing to pursue is genetic characterisations of this fungus to see if it is most closely related to strains... that are known to exist in North America or whether it is perhaps more closely related to strains found elsewhere in the world."

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