White-Nose Syndrome
WNS Fungus Confirmed in Oklahoma

WNS News Archive

WNS Fungus Confirmed in Oklahoma

Published on May 19, 2015
Written by Admin

The fungus that causes white-nose syndrome has been confirmed in Oklahoma. The presence of this fungus in Delaware County, OK makes this the westernmost case of the fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans. Oklahoma is the third state to be confirmed for the fungus, but does not yet have the disease. Read the full press release below.

We now have 26 states and 5 Canadian provinces in which WNS has been confirmed, and 3 states, including Oklahoma, Minnesota, and Mississippi, where Pd has been detected in advance of the disease. A new map will soon be available from Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Press Release from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation:

Fungus Responsible for Bat Disease Found in State

Three tri-colored bats, Perimyotis subflavus, from a privately owned cave in eastern Oklahoma's Delaware County have tested positive for the fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, that is associated with the disease known as white-nose syndrome. This disease has been confirmed in seven hibernating bat species across the eastern United States. With these new findings, Oklahoma becomes the third state where the fungus has been confirmed, but the disease is not present.

Bats are crucial to a healthy ecosystem. They play a key role in keeping insect populations including agricultural pests and mosquitos under control. In cave systems, they also provide nutrients for other cave life through their droppings.

"While disheartening, these results are not totally unexpected," said Melynda Hickman, wildlife diversity biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "This fungus has been documented in several counties just across the state line in Arkansas," she said. To date, this finding marks the westernmost case of the fungus in the United States. The fungus thrives in cold, humid environments and invades the skin of bats. White-nose syndrome disrupts the hibernating behavior of the bats, resulting in depletion of their fat stores. There are no known human health implications associated with white-nose syndrome.

The detection of the fungus resulted from participation in a national study led by researchers at the University of California-Santa Cruz with funding and support from the National Science Foundation. Surveillance efforts in Oklahoma are conducted in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and include swabbing the muzzle and wings of hibernating bats along with the surrounding cave wall (substrate). "One positive aspect of the Delaware County finding is that although three bats have tested positive for the fungus, no dead bats were observed in the cave and there were no visible signs of the disease on any of the hibernating bats," Hickman said. "Furthermore, all of the substrate samples from this cave were negative for the fungus," she said. The Wildlife Department and its many partners are committed to continuing surveillance for this fungus in Oklahoma.

After a suspected case of white-nose syndrome in Oklahoma in 2010, the Wildlife Department created the Oklahoma Bat Coordinating Team, composed of at least 20 entities that have direct bat and cave management responsibilities. The team created a communication plan involving scientific cooperators, interested parties, stakeholders and user groups on bat and cave management, bat research and bat diseases in Oklahoma. The team has been active in creating the state's white-nose syndrome response plan and participating in disease surveillance work in multiple cave systems in Oklahoma.

For more information about white-nose syndrome, including the national response plan for managing the disease and ongoing research, visit the national white-nose syndrome website at http://whitenosesyndrome.org.

A biologist prepares to swab a tri-colored bat during annual surveillance efforts. (Jena Donnell/ODWC)

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