WNS Continues to Spread - Latest Map

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WNS Continues to Spread - Latest Map

Postby PYoungbaer » Feb 10, 2012 2:43 pm

WNS reports continue to come in for 2012. Below is the second map so far this year.

Kentucky announced WNS CONFIRMATION for Breckenridge County where 3 caves tested Histo+ (Species: M.lucifugus, M.septentrionalis and P.subflavus).

Geauga and Cuyahoga Counties in Ohio as CONFIRMED (Histo.+ for Gd).

Harrison County Indiana as SUSPECT with 2 bats observed with visible fungus on muzzles.

PA, the western portion of the state is going thru major emergences. Bats with clinical signs and UV+ with mortality (samples taken). SUSPECT pending lab results.

I'm hearing other reports of emergences - perhaps the warmer than normal winter is affecting the bats, too. Any reports would be of interest.


Image click to enlarge
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Re: WNS Continues to Spread - Latest Map

Postby BrianC » Feb 10, 2012 4:02 pm

The appearance of spread is right along the path of what has been expected, a little slower than predicted.
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Re: WNS Continues to Spread - Latest Map

Postby winmag » Feb 10, 2012 8:38 pm

I was in Breathing Hole for the recovery of Kevin Eve and we noted a group of bats on a wall - several of which showed clear signs of WNS. And so it continues to spread...
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Re: WNS Continues to Spread - Latest Map

Postby David Grimes » Feb 10, 2012 9:20 pm

I have to agree with Brian on this one even though I agree with him on several issues involving WNS. If you look at the map it still follows nearly perfectly the bat migration routes but we still keep arguing that humans may be spreading WNS. Last I checked humans did not only cave in the bat migration routes. I know why the FWS claims humans are spreading WNS but it really has reached a point where the evidence against humans spreading WNS should be obvious to anyone who is not blinded by the government money flying in.

When they first announced that there was a chance humans could spread WNS I was not convinced but I still slowed my caving activity drastically and never even caved outside of my own county. As time has gone by I started to think the risk was not very likely and now I am at a point where I believe the odds of a human spreading g. destructans to another cave on their gear or clothing is so small you have a better chance of winning the lottery when you didn't buy a ticket. I will continue to follow the approved decontamination procedures and not use my caving gear outside of my normal caving area but these closures are really way past the point of being ridiculous.
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Re: WNS Continues to Spread - Latest Map

Postby tncaver » Feb 11, 2012 9:50 am

David Grimes wrote:When they first announced that there was a chance humans could spread WNS I was not convinced but I still slowed my caving activity drastically and never even caved outside of my own county. As time has gone by I started to think the risk was not very likely and now I am at a point where I believe the odds of a human spreading g. destructans to another cave on their gear or clothing is so small you have a better chance of winning the lottery when you didn't buy a ticket. I will continue to follow the approved decontamination procedures and not use my caving gear outside of my normal caving area but these closures are really way past the point of being ridiculous.


The WNS map makes it obvious that bats spread WNS, and it has been obvious to me for a LONG time that cavers are not spreading it. I find it amazing that anyone believes humans (cavers) are spreading WNS. If humans (cavers) were spreading WNS, WNS would have spread world wide by now because cavers (humans) travel the world in hours on planes, tranes, ships and automobiles while bats migrate slowly over a period of years, exactly like WNS is spreading. It should also be noted that today's decontamination routines were not begun for at least a couple of years. Therefore, if cavers were spreading WNS, it would have spread around the entire world during those first couple of years before decon was started. There is no doubt that money and power corrupts people.
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Re: WNS Continues to Spread - Latest Map

Postby winmag » Feb 11, 2012 12:49 pm

Um, isn't it widely believed that since the white nose fungus was noted in photos of bats in Europe from years ago, that likely it WAS brought to this country by people? I don't think any bats migrated to this continent from Europe. If it started in a commercial cave in the northeast, it would seem plausible that someone visiting that area came to the first cave it was found in and brought some spores along in some contaminated article of clothing or mud on a boot. Of course it is likely that bats are spreading it amongst themselves, but to deny the fact that something so easily spread as a fungal spore cannot be transported by humans would seem to be sticking one's head in the sand because it is inconvenient to believe something that might necessitate a change in behavior.
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Re: WNS Continues to Spread - Latest Map

Postby David Grimes » Feb 11, 2012 2:20 pm

winmag, the theory that a bat brought over on a cargo ship is just a likely (if not more likely) as a caver from Europe. The fact WNS showed up in a commercial cave first is really irrelevant since we cannot positively say it was not already in another area cave. It was likely noticed first in a commercial cave due to the number of visitors. It is still possible that the commercial cave in question was the first site.

I can respect your differing opinion, everyone is going to interpret the facts and the possibilities differently. I just believe if WNS was so easy to spread that a visitor from Europe could walk through a commercial cave and spread the spores enough to infect the bats then the same would have already happened many times here in the U.S. in the many years since WNS first arrived. Some people with the FWS and other organizations have tried to make those allegations but the maps and bat research suggest otherwise.
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Re: WNS Continues to Spread - Latest Map

Postby BrianC » Feb 11, 2012 3:16 pm

winmag wrote:Um, isn't it widely believed that since the white nose fungus was noted in photos of bats in Europe from years ago, that likely it WAS brought to this country by people? I don't think any bats migrated to this continent from Europe. If it started in a commercial cave in the northeast, it would seem plausible that someone visiting that area came to the first cave it was found in and brought some spores along in some contaminated article of clothing or mud on a boot. Of course it is likely that bats are spreading it amongst themselves, but to deny the fact that something so easily spread as a fungal spore cannot be transported by humans would seem to be sticking one's head in the sand because it is inconvenient to believe something that might necessitate a change in behavior.


Look back to posts about three years ago and see what facts were hashed out before bringing this up again! Scientific studies have confirmed that the spores that are responsible for spreading the fungus Gd have much difficulty if at all possible to spread in any method other that direct contact . Bats touching other bats especially during hibernation is the main method. Testing of caged bats showed that infected bats directly touching non infected bats replicated the fungus to a small percent. Non infected Bats just a few milometers away from infected bats had no signs of the fungus. People traveling from another country surely would have had a bath and a change of clothes before traveling out of their country, and would not have any chance of carrying difficult spores to transmit anyway. By the way, not only do only bats spread the fungus, but there is a probability that bats from the USA are responsible for spreading the fungus to Europe in the first place. Just another cog in the gear. Learn on!
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Re: WNS Continues to Spread - Latest Map

Postby winmag » Feb 11, 2012 3:56 pm

Okay, first of all, I just joined this board, and I have not, nor intend to, go back and read all the posts that have ever been put up in case I might be covering ground that has already been covered. Secondly I agree that bat to bat is going to be a vector to expand the range of WNS. However, I was at the original public meeting when the announcement was made to close all state owned caves in Indiana. One of the presenters gave a presentation showing an old slide from well before WNS had ever been seen in this country that showed similar white fungus on a European bat. They brought up the point that bats over there are not nearly as gregarious as they are over here, but maybe in the past they were and the quick spread of the fungus from bat to bat dropped their population and the only ones you see are more scattered in their hibernacula. So instead of this being a "new" disease, it became more plausible that it had been in Europe for some time and just finally got transported to this continent. Much like the native Americans having no resistance to smallpox, it spread rapidly with high mortality when finally brought here by Europeans.

Since there was no known "cure" or solution, the state decided to err on the side of caution and close the caves so that if humans did spread it, we wouldn't open the door wide open to moving it around to uninfected caves. It seems quite plausible that something on the order of a fungus could be spread rather easily as is athletes foot and other such things. Now that it is here, it is basically a moot point. But why does it seem so unbelievable to think a tourist finally ended up going someplace in a cave in Europe and then came back with mud and spores in his boots and then (being a cave inclined person) visited a commercial cave in the northeast, and that set everything in motion?

I'm sort of playing devil's advocate here because I saw something similar with the spread of emerald ash borer in Indiana. When they first found one spot in Indiana that had infested ash trees, the state should have prevented ALL firewood from coming into state properties. Yet I was around when the higher ups were saying - Well, you know, that is such a tradition to let people bring their own firewood into campgrounds, so we really can't just disallow that. It has been proven that the EAB moves great distances primarily through movement of firewood, yet no one wanted to rock the boat too much. Since then, a number of other EAB outbreaks have taken place in the rest of the state because people keep moving wood around. What was more important - keep allowing people to do what they wanted with no inconvenience, or putting a foot down to stop a new plague from decimating the ash resource?
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Re: WNS Continues to Spread - Latest Map

Postby PYoungbaer » Feb 11, 2012 4:15 pm

David Grimes wrote:The fact WNS showed up in a commercial cave first is really irrelevant since we cannot positively say it was not already in another area cave. It was likely noticed first in a commercial cave due to the number of visitors. It is still possible that the commercial cave in question was the first site.


Fact check: WNS was first noticed in the NSS-owned Schoharie Caverns in 2007 by caver Steve Janesky. Significant numbers of dead bats were then found at three other caves nearby: NSS-owned Gage Caverns, Northeastern Cave Conservancy-owned Knox Cave, and NY State-owned Hailes Cave.

It wasn't until a year later that photos taken in 2006 by hydrologist and caver Paul Rubin in Howes Cave - the non-commercial section of Howe Caverns - revealed several bats with the tell-tale physical appearance. That is recognized as the first documentation of WNS in the U.S., but not when it was first noticed. That cave is in an active limestone quarry, and is not open to general caving. As such, visitors are rare, mostly just the NYDEC and cavers doing the annual bat survey.

The commercial cave, Howe Caverns, has not reported any WNS, mostly because there are few, if any, bats. I've never seen one in there, and the non-commercial section is separated by a screen so bats don't come in. That's not to say that a stray hasn't made it in on occasion, but the idea that WNS was noticed in the commercial cave because of so many visitors is simply erroneous.
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Re: WNS Continues to Spread - Latest Map

Postby tncaver » Feb 11, 2012 4:22 pm

Bats infected in New York were not in the tourist part of the Commercial Cave. Those bats were located in a separate section away from all
the tourist trails where humans rarely ever visited.

If WNS was brought here from Europe by humans, why did it not happen decades earlier when air travel between continents first became common? Cavers have been traveling all over the world for decades. Bats have been documented to hitch rides on any kind of vehicle to include
ocean going ships, planes and other conveyances although it is not common. That rarity is a likely explanation why WNS did not show up long ago in the US. The fact that WNS showed up fairly close to a major shipping port is probably not a coincidence. I think those who ignore the obvious are the ones who are burying their heads in the sand. Of course one has to know the facts before the obvious becomes obvious.

The progression of WNS is documented fairly well in the NSS Cave Chat threads, but they go back a long way, so all the facts are not up front and easy to find. One interesting fact is the documentation of bat translocation over very long distances that was presented in a research paper for the Center for Disease Control. You can do a Cave Chat search for translocation or read the actual CDC paper in the following link:

http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/9/1/02 ... rticle.htm
Last edited by tncaver on Feb 11, 2012 4:31 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: WNS Continues to Spread - Latest Map

Postby PYoungbaer » Feb 11, 2012 4:27 pm

BrianC wrote: there is a probability that bats from the USA are responsible for spreading the fungus to Europe in the first place.


Not likely. Although the question has been asked, research points the other way. This from an interview with University of Winnipeg long-time bat researcher, Craig Willis:

The fungus that causes white nose, Geomyces destructans, is almost identical to the fungus found on bats in Europe, but it does not appear to have the mortality in Europe that it does in North America, studies have shown.

Willis said there are two basic theories that could explain why white nose is so destructive in North America, but not in Europe.

One is that the North American fungus existed here but went unnoticed until it mutated and became more deadly. The second is that the European fungus was brought to North America where bats are unable to fight off the infection.

If it is proven to be an invasive species — and the study Willis is leading is expected to be published in three to four months — an important next step would be to try to determine why European bats survive exposure to the fungus and most North American bats do not.
(AP article in the Wall Street Journal)http://online.wsj.com/article/AP0c401c80a5d74f749c42d17ee9c43fda.html
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Re: WNS Continues to Spread - Latest Map

Postby tncaver » Feb 11, 2012 4:30 pm

Last I heard, some US bats were surviving WNS. But how many and for how long remains to be determined.
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Re: WNS Continues to Spread - Latest Map

Postby PYoungbaer » Feb 11, 2012 5:02 pm

winmag wrote:Since there was no known "cure" or solution, the state decided to err on the side of caution and close the caves so that if humans did spread it, we wouldn't open the door wide open to moving it around to uninfected caves. It seems quite plausible that something on the order of a fungus could be spread rather easily as is athletes foot and other such things. Now that it is here, it is basically a moot point.


Winmag - it is basically a moot point. The endless arguing is pointless - it's here. Whether it came here on a bat, on a shoe, was pooped out by seagull, or evolved from an indigenous species, it's here.

You're absolutely correct that there is no cure or solution at this time. The wildlife managers understand they can't control the bats from spreading it - which everyone understands is the primary method of the disease spreading. The only thing they can control - and only to a certain extent - is human movement. Unless physically closed/gated, it's questionable if even that is effective. Look only to the media accounts of the hikers in Ohio who wandered into the caves where WNS was found. Responsible cavers will honor the closures, but there are so many others out there who aren't even aware or don't care.

There are many other unintended consequences of the closure orders - vandalism, rescues, economic impact, and more, which is why they are ineffective and should be ended. Targeted closures for significant roosts have always been, and will continue to be useful management tools. They won't stop bats from spreading WNS it into those roosts, but it can help those populations potentially recover, if affected, and can certainly protect significant colonies from disturbance.

That said, epidemiologists and fungal specialists know that a variety of methods of transmission are common. As I wrote in last year's NSS News Conservation issue, that is a perfectly reasonable starting point for preventive response. However, as the years have gone on, it's clear that if humans are a vector here, our impact is insignificant compared to what the bats are doing. Within the WNS-affected area, closures and decon seem pointless. Certainly the cost and potential exposure of people, gear, and environment to chemicals needs to be considered along with any perceived additional benefit in these regions.

However, at the front lines of WNS, and in areas far from WNS, we can continue to take precautions. Certainly, not taking WNS-exposed gear into unaffected areas is simple to accomplish, and probably the single most important thing we can do to prevent inadvertent spread - if it's possible. We don't yet know, but research is being conducted. We can believe what we want, but this is a pretty simple precaution.

The cleaning and disinfecting protocols have evolved and continue to evolve. We've been waiting for the new version to come out for many months now, but even last year's version (Feb. 2011) included a boiling water option to chemicals (still not good for vertical gear), and a recognition that caves in very close proximity (i.e. 10 miles) don't necessitate decon between each one. We expect the new protocols to include a hot water option that would be kind to vertical gear, but await the final release.

Personally, I hope the saturated zones drop the closure and decon advisory. I also personally believe that it makes no sense for a caver or researcher far from WNS to do it either. Why should a California caver or bat researcher who goes caving or does bat research in California, for example, need to follow the elaborate decon protocols? There's no WNS there, and no way for either of them to be transmitting it. Why add the cost and potential hazards of decon?

On the other hand, there is an argument for each cave being a unique ecosystem. It would be a good conservation practice for all of us to thoroughly clean our gear after caving, whether WNS is here or not.
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Re: WNS Continues to Spread - Latest Map

Postby David Grimes » Feb 11, 2012 9:10 pm

I agree with what Peter has said here. I was making a similar point in my first post just in a much cruder way. I did try to explain that I do not believe it is impossible to spread WNS on gear but the simple fact is that it is so difficult that the odds of it happening are very slim. If WNS could be spread easily by cavers we would have seen a very different map then the one we have. I will follow decon procedures if it keeps our caves open, I clean my gear between caves anyway.

My main argument is the fact that our caves are closed and the FWS and others continue to push this negative image of cavers spreading WNS in an effort to convince private landowners to close their caves as well. I am fine with closing caves that house a significant number of bats but the vast majority do not. Cavers have always avoided hibernating bats anyway.
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