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The White-Nose Syndrome Epidemic and How it Effects You

Big Brown BatHave you seen more bats lately? Have you even seen bats flying around during the day? Have bats roosted in and around your home when they normally don’t?  This may be the result of an epidemic affecting over half the bat species in North America. The disease is called White-nose syndrome (WNS) and has been spreading like fire throughout the bat population, and though it does not directly affect humans, it may have significant indirect consequences.

White-Nose Syndrome

Whites-nose syndrome is a disease caused by a fungal infection that targets hibernating bats.  White-nose syndrome was named for the patches of white fungal growth that start at the nose and spread to the joints and wings of the bat. This fungus causes hibernating bats to behave irregularly. When infected with the fungus they do not hibernate; instead, they fly during the day, and cluster at the front of their place of hibernating, known as hibernacula.

This altered behavior results in several outcomes. First, it is extremely harmful to the bats. Bats hibernate because their primarily diet consist of insects, and these insects aren’t found during the winter, when hibernating, their metabolism slows and they subsist on energy stored in fat.  If bats are awake when they should be hibernating, they expend more energy, a lot more energy, and starve as a result of there not being enough insects around to eat.  Hibernacula with bats infected by WNS might suffer from a mortality rate of 90-100 percent.

The second major outcome of the altered behavior is that bats infected with white nose syndrome are more likely to come into contact with humans during the winter months. This is because bats infected with white-nose syndrome are awake and fly during the winter months, and sometimes during the day, rather then hibernating like they should be. Bats infected with WNS also occasionally makes bats seek out warm places away from their roosts, places like your attic, or chimney.

How it effects you

The WNS pandemic poses two threats to humanity, one temporary and direct, the other permanent and indirect.

The direct threat that WNS poses is that the increased contact with bats during the winter months increases the rate of human cases of rabies.  In the United States only one or two people die of rabies a year, and this is because they were not treated, and were unaware of being infected. The low mortality rate in the U.S. is largely due to vaccination programs and rabies awareness; however most of the cases where humans do get infected are from bats.  If bats come into more contact with humans, due to being flushed out of their hibernacula by WNS then the rate of humans catching rabies is likely to increase. However, this will be a short term effect of WNS.

The indirect and permanent effect of WNS is that hibernating bat populations in the United States have their populations reduced dramatically, or even go extinct.  The results of this could be devastating our agriculture, health, and tourism.  Bats are the night time pollinators for many fruit trees, and are important for pollinating the saguaro cactus, and agave plant. Bats are also important in pest control; a single bat can eat as many as 3000 mosquitoes in a night. Without the bats, mosquito population and the rate mosquito transmitted diseases would dramatically increase. If that were the case it would put a strain on our health and tourism industry.

Shumaker Animal Control is Here to Help

If you find a bat in your home, do not attempt to remove it yourself, instead call Shumaker Animal Control. Shumaker Animal Control is a twenty-five year veteran of the animal control profession and knows the proper precautions to take in dealing with bats.  We know how to properly remove bats, without causing the animal harm, and can bat proof your house to prevent future bat incursions.

If you have any questions about animal removal, contact Shumaker Animal Control by calling (443) 854-8072 or click here today!

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This entry was posted on Thursday, January 29th, 2015 at 6:06 pm . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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