WBEZ | bats http://www.wbez.org/tags/bats Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Where could Ebola strike next? Scientists hunt virus in Asia http://www.wbez.org/news/science/where-could-ebola-strike-next-scientists-hunt-virus-asia-111324 <p><p>A few years ago, disease ecologist David Hayman made the discovery of a lifetime.</p><p>He was a graduate student at the University of Cambridge. But he spent a lot of that time hiking through the rain forest of Ghana, catching hundreds of fruit bats.</p><p>&quot;We would set large nets, up in the tree canopies,&quot; he says. &quot;And then early morning, when the bats are looking for fruit to feed on, we&#39;d captured them.&quot;</p><p>Hayman didn&#39;t want to hurt the bats. He just wanted a few drops of their blood.</p><p>Bats carry a&nbsp;huge number of viruses in their blood. When Hayman took the blood samples back to the lab, he found a foreboding sign: a high level of antibodies against Ebola Zaire.</p><blockquote><p><em>Inside the virus hunter&#39;s lab: Kevin Olival and Mindy Rostal, with EcoHealth Alliance, careful take blood, saliva and fecal samples from Rousettus fruit bats in Costa Rico.</em></p></blockquote><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="338" scrolling="no" src="http://www.npr.org/templates/event/embeddedVideo.php?storyId=371994171&amp;mediaId=372736011" width="600"></iframe></p><p>Right away, Hayman was concerned.</p><p>Ebola Zaire is the deadliest of the five Ebola species, and it has caused the most outbreaks. The antibodies in the bat&#39;s blood meant the animals had once been infected with Ebola Zaire or something related to it.</p><p>Hayman knew West Africa was at risk for an Ebola outbreak. He and his colleagues even&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3376795/">published</a>&nbsp;the findings in the free journal&nbsp;<em>Emerging Infectious Diseases,</em>&quot;<em>s</em>o that anyone in the world could go and read them,&quot; Hayman says.</p><p>He thought health officials would also be worried. &quot;We were all prepared for some sort of response, for questions,&quot; Hayman says. &quot;But I have to say, not many came. ... Nothing happened.&quot;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/29global-popup_wide-09dc8e233bbbbec0eec2b3dcf620ab5a0e0a08dd-s1200.jpg" style="height: 180px; width: 320px; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px; float: left;" title="Ecologists found signs of Ebola in a Rousettus leschenaultii fruit bat. These bats are widespread across south Asia, from India to China. Kevin Olival/EcoHealth Alliance" />That was two years ago. Now, with more than 20,000 Ebola cases&nbsp;<a href="http://www.who.int/csr/disease/ebola/situation-reports/en/">reported</a>&nbsp;in West Africa, health officials are definitely listening to Hayman.</p><p>Scientists think&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/goatsandsoda/2014/08/19/341468027/ebola-in-the-skies-how-the-virus-made-it-to-west-africa">bats likely triggered</a>&nbsp;the entire Ebola epidemic in West Africa. Just as Hayman predicted. &quot;It&#39;s not a good way to proven right,&quot; he says.</p><p>So now the big question is: Where else in the world is Ebola hiding out in bats? Where could the next big outbreak occur?</p><p>To find out, I called ecologist&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ecohealthalliance.org/about/experts/20-olival">Kevin Olival</a>&nbsp;at EcoHealth Alliance in New York City. Olival hunts down another virus in bats, called Nipah. In humans, it causes inflammation in the brain and comas. &quot;It&#39;s the virus the movie&nbsp;<a href="https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=1&amp;cad=rja&amp;uact=8&amp;ved=0CCAQFjAA&amp;url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.imdb.com%2Ftitle%2Ftt1598778%2F&amp;ei=tOqZVLOSNfjbsATNj4L4DA&amp;usg=AFQjCNFE_RJFVRroyLgwml_lZbnAGwKegw&amp;sig2=Iq1zBWCArqBq_v3-_J1M0g&amp;bvm=bv.82001339,d.cWc">Contagion</a>&nbsp;is based on,&quot; Olival says.</p><p>Nipah has outbreaks every few years in Bangladesh. So Olival went there back in&nbsp;2010 and captured a bunch of bats. Many had signs of Nipah in their blood. Others had something surprising: &quot;There&#39;s antibodies to something related to Ebola Zaire.&quot;</p><p>Before this discovery, scientists thought Ebola Zaire was found only in Africa. &quot;If you think about geographic space,&quot; Olival says, &quot;it was a big shock to find evidence for this virus in a very faraway place in south Asia.&quot;</p><p>Olival and his colleagues&nbsp;<a href="http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/19/2/pdfs/12-0524.pdf">published</a>&nbsp;these findings in February 2013. Then, a few months later, a team&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3492202/#__ffn_sectitle">reported</a>evidence for the virus in China.</p><p>The bats with these antibodies have a broad range across south Asia, Olival says. &quot;These species are found all the way down into parts of Indonesia.&quot;</p><p>The data suggest that Ebola Zaire is far more widespread around the world than previously thought.</p><p>So does that mean Ebola could have outbreaks in Bangladesh, China or Indonesia?</p><p>&quot;Well, that&#39;s a tricky one,&quot; Olival says. &quot;I think if you have the right combination of potential events, and sort of the perfect storm brews, then, yeah, it&#39;s possible.&quot;</p><p>Now, there&#39;s no sign bats have infected people in Asia with Ebola Zaire. And antibody tests can&#39;t say whether the virus in the bats was specifically Ebola Zaire or something related.</p><p>But Olival isn&#39;t waiting to find out. Both he and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.massey.ac.nz/massey/learning/colleges/college-of-sciences/about/veterinary-and-animal-sciences/staff-list.cfm?stref=021350">David Hayman</a>, who&#39;s now at Massey University in New Zealand, are working on ways to predict when and where Ebola and other deadly viruses will cause outbreaks.</p><p>In particular, Olival is working with USAID to build an&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ecohealthalliance.org/programs/28-predict_program">early warning system</a>&nbsp;for dangerous viruses. The system could alert communities when the risk of an outbreak is high. People could be more careful while hunting bats or avoid their guano.</p><p>&quot;The ultimate goal is to move toward prediction,&quot; Olival says. &quot;Again and again, we&#39;re hearing with the current massive Ebola outbreak that if it was detected earlier it would have been better contained.&quot;</p><p>Because both ecologists agree: It&#39;s not a question of whether a virus in the Ebola family will cause an outbreak outside of Africa, but a matter of when and where.</p><p>- <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/goatsandsoda/2015/01/02/371994171/where-could-ebola-strike-next-scientists-virus-hunt-in-asia"><em>via NPR</em></a></p></p> Fri, 02 Jan 2015 08:34:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/science/where-could-ebola-strike-next-scientists-hunt-virus-asia-111324 Ebola and deforestation http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2014-10-27/ebola-and-deforestation-110995 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP133741570065.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Deforestation in West Africa has forced bats to leave their homes and move to areas populated by humans, according to journalist Janet Ginsburg. She explains why she believes this could have contributed to the Ebola outbreak.</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-24/embed?header=false&amp;border=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-24.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-24" target="_blank">View the story "Worldview: Ebola and deforestation" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Mon, 27 Oct 2014 11:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2014-10-27/ebola-and-deforestation-110995 Where do Chicago's bats hang out? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/where-do-chicagos-bats-hang-out-110578 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/bats/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/BATS%20TOPPER%20FOR%20WEB5.jpg" title="" /></a></div><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/161019975&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/where-do-chicagos-bats-hang-out-110578#bio">Rory Keane</a> was ambling around Chicago&rsquo;s downtown a few years back when he stumbled upon what looked like a piece of fried chicken glistening on the sidewalk. But it didn&rsquo;t take long for him to be disabused.</p><p>&ldquo;I saw it twitch real quick,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;The next thing I knew, it grew wings and it was flying around my ankles and then right past my face.&rdquo;</p><p>It was a bat, in broad daylight, just doing its bat thing downtown. Soon after, Rory collected himself from fright and submitted these questions to Curious City:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>How many bats are in Chicago&rsquo;s Loop? What are their favorite hangouts?</em></p><p>Spoiler alert: Our experts say we can&rsquo;t pinpoint exactly how many bats call the Loop home. Nor can we locate particular buildings the critters like, either. (Alas, someone else will have to explore whether the <a href="https://www.flickr.com/search/?l=commderiv&amp;q=wrigley%20building%20chicago" target="_blank">gothic tower atop the Wrigley Building </a>acts a bat-magnet). But experts<em> can </em>say which types of environments Chicago&rsquo;s bats like to hang out in and how popular those sites are.</p><p>The takeaway is that these furry fliers are likely closer than you think. And, beyond that: All this bat activity&rsquo;s a good sign, given that there&rsquo;s an ominous threat to their very existence.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Where local bats <em>aren&rsquo;t</em></span></p><p>In 2012 researchers at the Lincoln Park Zoo&rsquo;s Urban Wildlife Institute embarked on a study to measure the Chicago-area bat population. They wanted to learn more about which bat species call Chicago home (or were at least recurring squatters), gauge their numbers and determine their favorite haunts, all with the hopes of keeping close tabs on bat species affected by the fatal spreading disease called &ldquo;<a href="https://www.whitenosesyndrome.org/" target="_blank">White Nose Syndrome</a>.&rdquo;</p><p>By 2013, the scientists had set up 18 bat detectors in various habitats around Cook and Kane counties: forest preserves, golf courses and at the Lincoln Park Zoo&rsquo;s Nature Boardwalk. As much as we hate to let Rory down, none of these detectors was in the Loop.</p><p><a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/bats/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/eastern-pipistrelle-little-guy.png" style="float: right; height: 116px; width: 180px;" title="An eastern pipistrelle." /></a>That&rsquo;s for several reasons.</p><p>The first one: Bats probably aren&rsquo;t hanging out downtown. Liza Lehrer, a research coordinator at UWI, says bats might fly through the Loop looking for food, but likely wouldn&rsquo;t make a home in urban infrastructures like skyscrapers. But if we were to try to pinpoint a bat hangout in the Loop, Lehrer says, be on the lookout for older, cozier buildings with lots of nooks and crannies.</p><p>&ldquo;They like old churches, barns, things like that &mdash; areas with lots of older architecture with attics that are easy to get into through roofs,&rdquo; Lehrer says. &ldquo;Maybe the Bucktown, Wicker Park areas, but I&rsquo;m sure anywhere around the city where they can use those spaces they&rsquo;re probably using them.&rdquo;</p><p>Lehrer says it&rsquo;s hard to put a number to how many bats hang out in urban infrastructure. But she wouldn&rsquo;t be surprised if there were 1,000 or more bats living in older Chicago neighborhoods.</p><p>&ldquo;Maternity colonies can have hundreds of individuals in one colony,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;So it&rsquo;s very possible there are thousands in the Chicago area for sure.&rdquo;</p><p>The second reason why UWI didn&rsquo;t place bat detectors in the Loop has to do with sound.</p><p>Julia Kilgour, a former UWI bat researcher, says the sheer noisiness of the Loop makes it a bad environment to pick up bat calls, and it&rsquo;s even noisier for the bats themselves.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/sonobat.jpg" title="A screenshot from Sonobat software that shows bat call frequency and species. Researchers can use this to determine how active certain sites are. (Photo courtesy UWI)" /></div><p>If you were sick the day they talked about <a href="http://animals.howstuffworks.com/mammals/bat2.htm" target="_blank">echolocation</a> in school, here&rsquo;s how bats navigate the world. Their eyesight isn&rsquo;t so hot, but their hearing is. Bats send out ultrasonic calls, which bounce off trees, buildings and prey. They listen to these echoes to locate who and what is around them.</p><p>Echolocation is not a problem in quiet, rural areas; but in dense, urban areas like the Loop, bats have a harder time pulling it off.</p><p>Rory himself was on to that explanation: &ldquo;I imagine if I&rsquo;m a chic urban bat and looking for a place to live, the Loop would be accommodating ... but it would be noisy.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><span style="font-size: 22px;">Where the bats </span><em style="font-size: 22px;">are</em></div><p>UWI researchers had plenty of other locations to gather data from; they&rsquo;ve analyzed thousands, if not millions, of bat calls gathered from forest preserves and golf courses around the Chicago area. Liza Lehrer says she&rsquo;s counted up to 3,000 calls from one detector in a single night.</p><p><a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/bats/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/forgotten bat 2.png" style="height: 242px; width: 180px; float: left;" title="A silver-haired bat" /></a>&ldquo;What&rsquo;s really exciting about what we&rsquo;ve found so far is we see a lot of bats in Chicago, both in urban and rural areas,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;We actually see more bats using Cook County sites in the height of the summer, but out in rural areas we saw more consistent numbers.&rdquo;</p><p>Another interesting finding? Bats really like golf courses.</p><p>&ldquo;You may not consider that an area for wildlife, but there&rsquo;s lots of bat diversity in golf course sites,&rdquo; Lehrer says.</p><p>Golf courses aren&rsquo;t as dense as the city&rsquo;s forest preserves and typically contain a small body of water, so they appeal more to tree-roosting bats, such as the hoary bat and the eastern pipistrelle.</p><p><a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/bats/" target="_blank">(To see a breakdown of favorite bat habitats around Chicago, check out our visualization by artist Erik Rodriguez, based on research provided by the UWI).</a></p><p>But the finding Lehrer says she&rsquo;s most excited about is that all seven species common to Northeastern Illinois have been detected at the <a href="http://www.lpzoo.org/nature-boardwalk" target="_blank">Lincoln Park Zoo&rsquo;s Nature Boardwalk</a>, a mere three miles north of the Loop.</p><p>&ldquo;[Bats are] living right here in Chicago, right in the middle of the city, right here at the zoo,&rdquo; Lehrer says. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re fortunate to have an amazing array of green space in the city so they&rsquo;re able to take advantage of that as much as possible.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The dreaded white-nose</span></p><p>Finding all seven bat species so close to a dense metropolis is especially exciting, Lehrer says, because several species are directly threatened by <a href="https://www.whitenosesyndrome.org/" target="_blank">white-nose syndrome</a>.</p><p>A bat afflicted by the white fungal disease can wake up early during winter hibernation. Affected bats become active right when nature designed them to conserve energy and do as little as possible: when food stores are low and temperatures are dangerous. Lehrer draws an analogy that Chicago-area residents can certainly relate to. &ldquo;If you think about if you emerged from hibernation during our polar vortex,&rdquo; she says, &ldquo;there&rsquo;d be nothing for you to eat. It&rsquo;d be very difficult for you to survive if you were a bat. So, thats what&rsquo;s happening. They emerge from wintering spots and aren&rsquo;t able to survive or find food.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/bats/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/LITTLE BROWN BAT WEB.jpg" style="height: 430px; width: 620px;" title="Little brown bat populations, illustrated above, have been decimated by white-nose syndrome in the northeastern U.S., but researchers have detected bat calls from them at the Lincoln Park Zoo's nature boardwalk." /></a></div><p>Since white-nose syndrome spreads when bats are hibernating in close proximity, Lehrer says, &ldquo;some caves have found up to 90 to 100 percent mortality.&rdquo; According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service, the disease has killed millions of bats across the U.S. and Canada. There have been <a href="https://www.whitenosesyndrome.org/resources/map" target="_blank">confirmed sightings</a> in Illinois, as well as several neighboring states.</p><p>The disease is <a href="https://www.whitenosesyndrome.org/about/bats-affected-wns" target="_blank">hitting some bat species harder than others</a>. Of the seven species that call the Chicago area home, the big brown bat (<em>Eptesicus fuscus</em>), the little brown bat (<em>Myotis lucifugus</em>), and the tri-colored bat (<em>Perimyotis subflavus</em>) have been susceptible.</p><p>The UWI study is one effort to monitor bat populations, health and behavior while scientists find cures for the disease.</p><p>So while bats may be on the top of the list of scary creatures for many Chicagoans, the scarier proposition is that there would be no bats left. At least, that&rsquo;s how Rory Keane feels about it.</p><p>&ldquo;When you come across something really puzzling like WNS &hellip; it&rsquo;s troublesome,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;If it spells the end for bats it&rsquo;s just one more fixture in the ecosystem that&rsquo;s going to throw things out of balance for us as we experience it every day.&rdquo;</p><p>He points to a scene most Chicagoans can relate to. &nbsp;</p><p><a name="bio"></a>&ldquo;If you&rsquo;re driving down Lake Shore Drive and it&rsquo;s a clear day and you can see the skyline in front of you,&rdquo; he says, &ldquo;you marvel at the success we&rsquo;ve built up around us. &hellip; But could it have all worked out without the contributions of even these tiny, erratically-flying, illogical mammals we call bats?&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/rory%20mug%20FOR%20WEB.jpg" style="float: left; height: 199px; width: 200px;" title="(Photo courtesy Rory Keane)" /><span style="font-size:22px;">Our question comes from: Rory Keane</span></p><p>Chicagoan Rory Keane got us looking into bat habitat a few years after he nearly stomped on one that was hanging out in the Loop. A graduate from Northwestern&rsquo;s Medill School of Journalism, he&rsquo;s worked as an English teacher in China and is currently working as a digital marketer in Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;I guess you could characterize me as a curious person,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;I have a little bit of a curiosity when it comes to travel and seeing the world from a different perspective.&rdquo;</p><p>So, he&rsquo;s no stranger to new experiences, but he still didn&rsquo;t expect to get a new perspective from that one, tiny bat in his hometown.</p><p>&ldquo;It was already an incredibly precious encounter given that you would never expect it,&rdquo; Rory says of the eastern red bat he nearly squashed. &ldquo;It took a bat to startle me into realizing what was going on around me [in the natural world] on an everyday basis.&rdquo;</p><p>Did we mention Rory also does a fantastic Werner Herzog impression? You gotta listen to his speculations on what life as a Chicago bat is like:</p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/161020052&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em><a href="https://twitter.com/JnnBrndl" target="_blank">Jennifer Brandel</a> is Curious City&#39;s senior producer and <a href="https://twitter.com/loganjaffe" target="_blank">Logan Jaffe</a> is Curious City&#39;s multimedia producer. Bat and habitat illustrations by <a href="http://www.erographics.com/">Erik Nelson Rodriquez</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 30 Jul 2014 16:22:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/where-do-chicagos-bats-hang-out-110578 'Devastating' bat disease reaches Illinois, scientists report http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-03/devastating-bat-disease-reaches-illinois-scientists-report-105920 <p><p><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwshq/6847107816/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/white-nose%20bat%20by%20%20USFWS%20Headquarters.jpg" title="A bat with White-nose Syndrome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. (Courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via Flickr)" /></a></p><p>Scientists have confirmed the arrival of the fungus known for causing White-Nose Syndrome, a disease blamed for more than 5.7 million bat deaths since its discovery in 2006.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s devastating news,&rdquo; said Julia Kilgour, a bat ecologist with the Urban Wildlife Institute.</p><p>Its arrival was predicted years ago, in light of <a href="http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/13/a-bat-fungus-on-the-march/">the disease&#39;s unrelenting march through bat populations</a> as far west as Oklahoma and as far north as Qu├ębec. Some infected caves on the East Coast have lost 90 to 100 percent of their population of little brown bats, a species also common in Illinois.</p><p>Perhaps as troubling as the disease&rsquo;s severity is how little scientists know about its pathology.</p><p>&ldquo;This disease has come up so quickly and spread so rapidly that it&rsquo;s very difficult for scientists to keep up with it,&rdquo; Kilgour said.</p><p>&nbsp;The name White-Nose Syndrome describes the fuzzy white fungus that accumulates on the noses of infected bats, but also on their wings, ears and tails. One prevalent hypothesis for how it affects its host is that it interrupts the bat&rsquo;s hibernation cycle. Irritated by the infection, bats rouse from their winter rest too frequently, burning up fat stores meant to carry them through lean winter months.</p><p>The disease also destroys skin tissue on the wings of infected bats, dehydrating the bats and leaving them with holes sometimes as large as an inch in diameter (the typical little brown bat wingspan is less than 10 inches). Scientists have not been able to determine whether the hibernation disruption, dehydration, or something else entirely is chiefly responsible for the disease&rsquo;s massive mortality.</p><p>Bats flock together from hundreds of miles around to hibernate, potentially spreading the fungus across state lines. And while humans cannot contract the disease, they may unknowingly ferry it between hibernacula, the scientific term for hibernation locations. White-Nose Syndrome <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/news/threat-bat-syndrome-closes-some-midwest-caves">has prompted cave closures and outright bans</a> on spelunking in some areas, and Kilgour said cavers should disinfect their gear with bleach solution or Lysol before entering a new cave.</p><p><a href="http://static.whitenosesyndrome.org/sites/default/files/wns_map_03-01-13_ds.jpg" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/wns_map_03-01-13_ds.jpg" style="height: 524px; width: 610px;" title="White-Nose Syndrome has been found in 20 states to date. In Illinois, scientists detected it in LaSalle, Monroe, Hardin and Pope counties. (Map by Cal Butchkoski, PA Game Commission, courtesy whitenosesyndrome.org)" /></a></p><p>The fungus <em>Geomyces destructans </em>was first found afflicting U.S. bats in Schoharie County, N.Y., near the state capital Albany. But <em>G. destructans </em>is native to Europe, where it does not seem to cause the disease. Bats that migrate to Mexico or the southern U.S. can escape the cold-loving fungus.</p><p>Bats are responsible for perhaps billions of dollars worth of agricultural services each year, by way of pest-control and pollination. Although <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/13/white-nose-syndrome-scien_n_714426.html">research done in 2010 by New York state&#39;s Department of Health</a> suggested antifungal drugs already used to treat people and animals, the logistical difficulties of treating millions of bats in the wild are prohibitive.</p><p>&ldquo;Sterilizing nature is not really an option,&rdquo; Kilgour said.</p><p>Although the fungus is here, widespread bat fatalities typically don&rsquo;t happen until a year later.</p><p>Kilgour runs <a href="http://www.lpzoo.org/conservation-science/projects/monitoring-bat-diversity-and-around-chicago">a project attempting to take stock of Chicago&#39;s bat population</a>. Outbreaks like White-Nose Syndrome underscore the importance of wildlife monitoring programs, she said, because they provide a benchmark for future population losses.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ll be listening this summer,&rdquo; she said.</p></p> Wed, 06 Mar 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-03/devastating-bat-disease-reaches-illinois-scientists-report-105920 Weather brings bats out early, raising rabies risk http://www.wbez.org/science/health/weather-brings-bats-out-early-raising-rabies-risk-97910 <p><p>Illinois health officials say the remarkably warm weather means bats are active earlier this year. That increases the risk of exposure to rabies.</p><p>The Illinois Department of Public Health announced Tuesday that two people are getting treatment after a bat tested positive for rabies.</p><p>State public health veterinarian Connie Austin says people shouldn't approach bats. Instead, call your local animal control agency.</p><p>If you find a bat indoors, try to contain it in one room and call local animal control officials.</p><p>Rabies is a viral disease that affects the nervous system. Humans can get rabies from the bite of an infected animal, and it can be fatal if left untreated.</p><p>Last year, 49 bats and one cow tested positive for rabies in Illinois.</p></p> Wed, 04 Apr 2012 10:46:38 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/science/health/weather-brings-bats-out-early-raising-rabies-risk-97910