White nose syndrome, the mysterious plague that’s decimating entire cave-dwelling bat populations, has spread into Kentucky. The disease has now been confirmed in 18 states and four Canadian provinces. Scientists presume a fungus is the cause of the disease, but are still unsure how to treat the epidemic. The Fish and Wildlife Service recently unveiled a national plan to help land managers address white nose, outlining management actions if the disease is discovered and providing an overall strategy for investigating the cause of the syndrome and containing its growth.
In addition to Kentucky, white nose was recently confirmed in bats within the New River Gorge in West Virginia. First confirmed in New York in 2006, the syndrome has spread as far south as North Carolina and Tennessee and is suspected to be as far west as Oklahoma. White Nose Syndrome has a population mortality rate of 90 to 100 percent. While the disease does not affect humans, the FWS believes one of the prominent avenues for spreading the disease has been cavers carrying the fungus with them from one cave to the next on their clothing.