Fungus That Causes Deadly Bat Disease Discovered In Mississippi?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The fungus known to cause white-nose syndrome (WNS) in hibernating bats, a disease that has decimated bat populations in the eastern United States and Canada, was recently discovered for the first time in Mississippi. The fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, was detected in samples collected from several caves and road culverts in eastern Mississippi this past winter through a National Science Foundation-funded monitoring project.

Kathy Shelton, conservation biologist for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, and the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science says the infection is at very low levels right now, but that could change. "It is very concerning that we have found the fungus in Mississippi," says Shelton, "but we have not found white-nose syndrome yet in our state, and will work hard to monitor the health of bats in Mississippi."  

Mississippi is one of three states where the fungus has been detected but WNS has not been confirmed. The fungus was also detected last year in Iowa and Minnesota, but to date, WNS has not been confirmed in those states. In contrast, P. destructans was also detected for the first time in Arkansas last year, and this year, the first bat mortalities from the disease were observed in the state.

Since its detection in New York in 2007, WNS has been confirmed in 25 states and five Canadian Provinces. Winter bat colonies in some states have declined by more than 90 percent. 

“With WNS established in the surrounding states, the detection of P. destructans in Mississippi does not come as a surprise," said Jeremy Coleman, national WNS coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "As WNS moves south and west, we are particularly interested in monitoring the progression of the disease, especially as new species and regions are exposed." 

WNS does not infect humans and is only known to affect cave-hibernating bats. There is no known treatment for wild bat populations. The fungus thrives in cold, humid environments and invades the skin of bats, disrupting their hibernating behavior and depleting their fat stores. The final cause of death of infected bats is still under investigation.

Mississippi has monitored for WNS since 2011, and surveys will expand next winter to include more caves and culverts with hibernating bat populations.                                                

To help prevent the spread of the fungus, all potential visitors to area caves should consult cave managers to check on access restrictions.  Cavers should always follow strict gear restriction and decontamination procedures, and cave managers should ensure that visitors adopt these practices. For example, no clothing or equipment that has been worn in a cave in eastern North America should be worn when visiting subsequent caves or mines outside of the WNS area, and equipment used in WNS-affected states and provinces should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before use. "Since we know the fungus can be transmitted on clothing and gear, we hope to slow its spread through our state," says Shelton.

Information about WNS decontamination protocols can be found on the national WNS website at www.whitenosesyndrome.org/.

Connect with our white-nose syndrome Facebook page at www.facebook.com/usfwswns, follow our tweets at www.twitter.com/usfws_wns, and download photos from our Flickr page at www.flickr.com/photos/usfwshq/collections/72157626455036388/.


National Archery In Schools Program Subject For June Nature At Noontime

The National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP), will be the subject for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s June Nature at Noontime program. The program will be held on Thursday, June 2, from noon-1 p.m. at the TWRA’s Region II Ray Bell Building located in the Ellington Agriculture Complex. Don Crawford, TWRA assistant chief for Information and Education and the ... (click for more)

TWRA Officials To Attend Meeting In Regard To Kentucky Lake Crappie Fishery

Officials from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency are among those who will be attending a public meeting regarding the crappie fishery on Kentucky Lake. The meeting, requested by State Representative Tim Wirgau, will be held on Tuesday, June 14, from 7-8:30 p.m. in the Enoch Building at the Henry County Fairgrounds in Paris. TWRA fisheries personnel will attend to share ... (click for more)

Attorney Says Lacie Stone, Advisor To Mayor Berke, Is Victim, Not Instigator

The attorney for advisor to Mayor Andy Berke Lacie Stone said she has been thrust into the spotlight, but said she is "the victim of an unprovoked attack" by her husband, Bobby Stone. Attorney John Cavett said it is ridiculous "to suggest that she was the perpetrator." Mr. Stone is facing charges of domestic assault and vandalism. Attorney Cavett said, "It is unfortunate ... (click for more)

Dr. Russell Dyer Chosen As Director Of Schools By Cleveland City School Board

The Cleveland City School board unanimously voted Thursday afternoon to offer the job of director of Schools to Dr. Russell Dyer. Dr. Dyer serves as the chief of staff of schools in Collierville, Tn.  If Dr. Dyer accepts the school board's contract, he will be paid $132,500 a year.  After contract negotiations, the board plans for Dr. Dyer to start at Cleveland City ... (click for more)

Case Handled Like Any Other? - And Response

It is interesting that Chief Fletcher would deem the handling of the Mayor's encounter as typical or normal. Is the Chief asking the public to believe that all misdemeanor domestic violence arrests include a 4-hour taped interrogation, and delayed reporting after a visit to the Chief’s house. Of course, we believe that Chief Fletcher. April Eidson * * *  I ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: A Judge's Night Behind Bars

There is very little doubt that retired Army Sergeant Joe Serna has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after serving three tours as a Green Beret in Afghanistan. Once he barely avoided being blown up by a hidden IED and then there was another terrifying brush with a suicide bomber. But the worst was when a truck he was in slid off the roadway into a canal. “It was like ... (click for more)