Bat disease white-nose syndrome confirmed in South Carolina

Brown bat suffering from white-nose syndrome. (AP Photo/New York Department of Environmental Conservation, Ryan von Linden)

The state Department of Natural Resources has 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 the disease.

However, a dead bat discovered recently at Table Rock State Park in northern Pickens County has been confirmed to have white-nose syndrome, 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, 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 deaths from the disease in North America range from 5.7 to 6.7 million bats since the new pathogen was first discovered, the agency stated. Testing of a dead bat found in Table Rock State Park on Feb. 21 confirmed the presence of a fungus that causes the disease.

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, DNR stated.

Currently there is no cure or effective treatment for the disease.

Bat species that hibernate in mines or caves are susceptible to the disease. In South Carolina, those species are big brown bat, little brown bat, Eastern small-footed bat, Northern long-eared bat, tricolored bat and Southeastern bat.

Bats play a critical role in maintaining healthy ecosystems and have an enormous impact on pest control, DNR stated.

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