White-nose syndrome has been confirmed in Iowa. The disease of hibernating bats, having killed more than 5.7 milli...
Decontaminating caving gear and clothing by proper cleaning is a critical strategy for reducing the spread of the fungus that causes White-nose Syndrome in bats, Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd) and protecting hibernating bats from its devastating impact. Scientific studies have shown that people can spread this deadly fungus on contaminated equipment and clothing. Following proper decontamination protocols to carefully clean all caving gear and clothing after visiting sites where the fungus might occur is imperative for ensuring we are doing our part for bats.
The fungus that causes WNS can be widespread in sediments and on cave or mine walls, even if cave visitors don’t see dead or hibernating bats. All cave gear should be cleaned thoroughly following approved decontamination protocols immediately after exiting subterranean habitats to ensure that people aren’t unwittingly spreading this deadly pathogen. Bats can also spread the fungus but people are capable to traveling large distances over winter and can cause major expansions in the spread of the disease.
By decontaminating our clothing and equipment we can greatly minimize the introduction of foreign microbes into cave systems. Decontamination and proper field hygiene conform to standards of good caving practices and good environmental stewardship. Taking the time and making the effort to clean caving gear could make the difference in saving the lives of thousands of bats.
This video produced by the Monongahela National Forest in partnership with the Cave Research Foundation provides a great overview of the importance of bats, the threat of WNS, and the importance of decontaminating your cave gear.
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