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WNS documented in Oklahoma

From the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

-- Laboratory tests performed at the U. S. Geological Survey National Health Center in Madison, Wis., have demonstrated that a Cave Myotis (Myotis velifer) bat collected alive on May   from a cave in northwest Oklahoma has tested positive for the fungus Geomyces destructans. The fungus is associated with White Nose Syndrome, specific to some bat species and first observed in four caves in New York during  2006.

Bats with White Nose Syndrome have noticeable white fungus growing on their skin, particularly on their noses and other bare surfaces including their wings.  White Nose Syndrome frequently results in the death of the infected bats. Biologists continue to study the bat specimens to determine if all bats that come into contact with the fungus will develop the disease.  There have been no reported human illnesses attributed to the fungus or to White Nose Syndrome, and there is no evidence to suggest that the syndrome is harmful to organisms other than bats.
           
Although genetic tests indicate that the bat was harboring the fungus, the pattern of infection was not consistent with the White Nose Syndrome infection observed in bats in the eastern United States. There also has not been a mortality event attributable to White Nose Syndrome in Oklahoma to date.  Both the ODWC and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) are concerned about the potential development of White Nose Syndrome in Oklahoma in the near future.  

The ODWC and FWS’s Oklahoma Ecological Services Field Office anticipate working in partnership with other federal and state agencies, researchers and conservation partners to monitor other Oklahoma caves and bat populations for the fungus and signs of WNS.
           
This finding is the first record of the fungus in Oklahoma and represents the most western report to date.  The next closest known report of the fungus occurred in eastern Missouri earlier this year.  To date, all of the WNS cases have been east of the Mississippi River.  This finding also represents the first discovery of the fungus in a bat species that does not occur in the eastern United States.  The range of the Cave Myotis extends from western Oklahoma and Texas west and south into New Mexico, Arizona, California and Mexico.
           
The potential impact of White Nose Syndrome is considered to be significant because of the highly beneficial ecological and economic roles played by bats.  Bats consume mosquitoes, moths and other night-flying insects including species that cause extensive forest and agricultural damage.  Additionally, bat guano provides essential nutrients to many otherwise nutrient-limited cave environments where other animals live.
           
Currently, WNS  is believed to be transmitted through bat-to-bat contact.  However, it is possible that the fungus could be transmitted by humans who enter caves and carry the fungus on their shoes, gear and clothing. Within the past four years,  WNS  has been documented in 13 eastern states and two Canadian provinces.  
           
For more information about WNS, including information about ongoing research, recommended decontamination procedures for caving gear and clothing, and answers to frequently asked questions, please visit the Service’s White Nose Syndrome national website at http://www.fws.gov/northeast/white_nose.html

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