White-Nose Syndrome (WNS)
White-nose syndrome (WNS) is an emergent disease of hibernating bats that has spread from the northeastern to the central United States at an alarming rate. Since the winter of 2007-2008, millions of insect-eating bats in 31 states and five Canadian provinces (as of September 2017) have died from this devastating disease.
Bat population declines are expected to have substantial impacts on the environment and agriculture. Bats eat insects that damage crops and spread disease. Consumption of insects by bats saves farmers billions of dollars in pest control services annually.
White-nose syndrome is caused by a fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, that infects skin of the muzzle, ears, and wings of hibernating bats. Field signs of WNS can include excessive or unexplained mortality at a hibernaculum; visible white fungal growth on the muzzle or wings of live or freshly dead bats; abnormal daytime activity or movement toward hibernacula openings; and severe wing damage in bats that have recently emerged from hibernation. Infected bats experience a cascade of physiologic changes that result in weight loss, dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and death. To determine conclusively if bats are affected by white-nose syndrome, scientists must examine a skin specimen to look for a characteristic microscopic pattern of skin erosion caused by P. destructans. Please see below for guidance on sample collection and submission for diagnostic services.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has been a leading contributor to the interagency response to WNS since 2008 and continues to provide ongoing scientific support to these efforts by performing fundamental research on bat ecology, fungal biology, and WNS epidemiology and pathology.
For more information on WNS and the interagency response to this disease, visit: whitenosesyndrome.org.
Report observations of sick or dead bats to state wildlife agencies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the USGS National Wildlife Health Center (608-270-2480).
Disease Investigation Services
Confirming a diagnosis of WNS requires both the analysis of bat skin tissue samples by culture or molecular methods to detect the fungus AND viewing of samples under a microscope by a trained pathologist to document signs of skin infection. Please see the links below for guidance on sample collection, submission, and diagnosis of WNS.
To request diagnostic services or report wildlife mortality, please contact the NWHC at 608-270-2480 or by email at NWHCfirstname.lastname@example.org,and a field epidemiologist will be available to discuss the case.
To report wildlife mortality events in Hawaii or Pacific Island territories, please contact the Honolulu Field Station at 808-792-9520 or email Thierry Work at email@example.com.
Further information can be found at http://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/services/
Wildlife Mortality Reporting and Diagnostic Submission Request Form
Additional USGS Resources on WNS
White-Nose Syndrome.org - A Coordinated Response to the Devastating Bat Disease
The primary location to obtain up-to-date information on the WNS response is the interagency website on WNS: whitenosesyndrome.org. This site brings together the work of an extensive group of state, federal, tribal, university, and non-governmental partners to help minimize the impacts of white-nose syndrome. White-nose syndrome updates, FAQs, and outreach materials and more can be found on this site.
Battle for Bats: Surviving White Nose Syndrome
Battle For Bats: Surviving White Nose Syndrome was produced for the USDA Forest Service by Ravenswood Media. It shows how government and private agencies have come together to search for solutions to help our bat populations overcome WNS. The public can also play a role in the future of bats by providing habitat and surveying their populations. Bats are a critical component in a healthy forest ecosystem, plus they provide significant agricultural pest control and pollination. Their survival is essential for a sustainable natural environment.