Kentucky becomes 16th state to report fatal bat disease

Lexington Herald-LeaderApril 13, 2011 

A fatal bat disease has been confirmed in Kentucky for the first time, state and federal officials said Wednesday.

White-nose syndrome was confirmed in a little brown bat from a cave in Trigg County in Western Kentucky, about 30 miles southeast of Paducah.

The disease was first detected in New York state in 2006 and has killed more than 1 million cave-dwelling bats in eastern North America. With confirmation of the disease in Kentucky, 16 states and three Canadian provinces have now been affected.

"This is likely the most significant disease threat to wildlife Kentucky has ever seen," Jonathan Gassett, commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, said in a news release.

The cause of the disease is unknown, but afflicted bats grow a white fungus on their noses and wings. Caves that become infected have a bat mortality rate of nearly 100 percent, officials said.

Anticipating arrival of the disease in Kentucky, biologists have taken measures to limit its spread. The disease is known to be transmitted from bat to bat, but fungal spores might be inadvertently carried to caves by humans on clothing and caving gear.

State and federal agencies took measures to limit potential human movement of the disease. Those included increased education on decontamination procedures, surveillance, monitoring, and cave closures on private, state and federal lands. In 2009, Kentucky was the first state to develop a response plan to address the disease.

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