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DNR: Bat disease white-nose syndrome confirmed in South Carolina
web posted March 13, 2013
STATE – The S.C. Department of
Resources recently received confirmation that white-nose syndrome, a
disease that has killed millions of bats in eastern North American, is
now officially in South Carolina. Until now, South Carolina appeared to
be insulated from white-nose syndrome (WNS).
However, a dead bat discovered recently at Table Rock State Park in
northern Pickens County has been confirmed to have WNS, which spreads
mainly through bat-to-bat contact and has not been found to infect
humans or other animals.
"We have been expecting WNS in South Carolina," said Mary Bunch,
wildlife biologist with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
based in Clemson. "We have watched the roll call of states and counties
and Canadian provinces grow each year since the first bat deaths were
noted in New York in 2007." Estimates of bat mortality from WNS in
North America range from 5.7-6.7 million bats since the new pathogen
was first discovered.
Table Rock State Park staff informed Bunch about what appeared to be a
dead bat and asked whether it should undergo WNS testing. Bunch was
doing routine WNS monitoring in the area and collected the bat, a
tri-colored bat. The bat was collected on Feb. 21, transported on ice,
and submitted to the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study in
Athens, Ga. The Wildlife Disease Study confirmed the presence of
Geomyces destructans fungus, which causes WNS.
Table Rock's bat colony is in a remote portion of the park not
accessible to the public, and the discovery of the white-nose syndrome
bat is not a threat to park visitors’ health and safety and will not
have any negative effects upon their visits to Table Rock State Park.
Map of confirmed cases of Bats with White-nose syndrome
Larger Version of Map
With the addition of South Carolina, WNS has now been confirmed in 21
states and five Canadian provinces.
Currently there is no cure or effective treatment for WNS, and
mortality in some species, such as the small tri-colored bat, has
exceeded 98 percent. Bats have very low reproductive rates so recovery
from losses takes a long time. Formerly common bats are becoming rare,
and some rare bats may be lost. The fungus grows best in a cool moist
environment, the same places bats go to hibernate.
Bat species that hibernate in mines or caves are susceptible to WNS. In
South Carolina, those species are big brown bat, little brown bat,
Eastern small-footed bat, Northern long-eared bat, tricolored bat and
In the Southeast, there are some other colonial, non-hibernating, bats
in which WNS has not been detected, such as the free-tailed bat and the
While WNS is not harmful to humans, scientists believe it is possible
for humans to transport fungal spores on clothing and gear. In 2009,
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service advised cavers and researchers to
curtail caving activities and implement decontamination procedures in
an effort to reduce the spread of WNS. The fungus cannot be killed
simply by washing clothing.
Bats play a critical role in maintaining healthy ecosystems and have an
enormous impact on pest control, benefitting the economies of both
forestry and agriculture in the United States. For example, the one
million little brown bats that have already died due to WNS would have
eaten between 660 and 1,320 metric tons of insects in one year. A
recent study published in Science estimates that insect-eating bats
provide a significant pest-control service, saving the U.S.
agricultural industry at least $3 billion a year.
"The news that white-nose syndrome has been confirmed in South Carolina
is devastating for these very important mammals," Bunch said. "We will
continue to work closely with our partners to understand the spread of
this deadly disease and to help minimize its impacts to affected bat
For more information about white-nose syndrome, visit
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