SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has confirmed the presence of white-nose syndrome (WNS), a disease fatal to several bat species, in four Illinois counties.
Several agencies assisted in the discovery of WNS which was detected in LaSalle County in north-central Illinois, Monroe County in southwestern Illinois, and Hardin and Pope counties in Southern Illinois. Little brown bats and northern long-eared bats from these counties were submitted to the various agencies in early-to-mid February.
The laboratories confirmed the disease, while the fungal pathogen was isolated directly from a LaSalle County bat and a Monroe County bat at the Illinois Natural History Survey.
With confirmation of WNS in Illinois, a total of 20 states, mostly in the east, and five Canadian provinces have now been confirmed infected. Seven hibernating bat species are affected by WNS: little brown bat, big brown bat, northern long-eared bat, tri-colored bat, eastern small-footed bat, the endangered Indiana bat and the endangered gray bat.
The disease continues to spread rapidly and has the potential to infect at least half of the bat species found in North America.
White-nose syndrome is not known to affect people, pets, or livestock but is harmful or lethal to hibernating bats, killing 90 percent or more of some species of bats in caves where the fungus has lasted for a year or longer. WNS is known to be transmitted primarily from bat to bat, but spores of Geomyces destructans, the non-native, cold-loving fungus that causes white-nose syndrome, may be inadvertently carried between caves and abandoned mines by humans on clothing, footwear, and caving gear.