Fungus that causes deadly bat disease found in Mississippi

JACKSON, Miss. — For some people, just looking at bats sends chills up their spines, but according to researchers, the winged creatures have their own reason to be scared.

“That fungus is called Pseudogymnoascus destructans. It’s quite a mouthful,” Catherine Hibbard, spokesperson for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said.

The fungus that causes White Nose Syndrome, a deadly disease, was found in Mississippi.

“It’s very difficult to try and stop the spread,” Hibbard said.

The fungus was found in four counties in southeast Mississippi, including Smith, Jasper, Neshoba, and Winston counties.

“The fungus is primarily spread from bat-to-bat contact,” Hibbard said.

While White Nose Syndrome, or WNS, is not dangerous to humans, that doesn’t mean humans cann’t spread it.

“If we knew there were bats in the caves, we would not schedule a hike,” Charlie Bright, president of the Tennessee Trails Association, said.

Bright told WREG he would not risk exploring caves, knowing he could spread the disease by fungus getting on his clothes.

“I personally would prefer that those bats fly around and eat insects and do other things bats do than to see them in a cave,” Bright said.

An estimated six million bats have already died from WNS.

The disease has been found in 25 states across the country, but Mississippi is one of three states where only the fungus causing the disease has been spotted.

“The progression is that we will find the fungus, and then we’ll start to see bats becoming sick with the disease, and then bats will start dying from the disease,” Hibbard said.

CLICK HERE for more information on WNS.

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