WBEZ | disease http://www.wbez.org/tags/disease Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en More babies are dying because of congenital syphilis http://www.wbez.org/news/more-babies-are-dying-because-congenital-syphilis-113771 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/syphilis_wide-b388ef1516c9a9a65bcb6b0e42e8d00b490d7319-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="res455770081"><div data-crop-type="" style="text-align: center;"><img alt="The bacterium that causes syphilis is spread through sexual contact. It's easily cured with antibiotics, but can be hard to diagnose." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/11/12/syphilis_wide-b388ef1516c9a9a65bcb6b0e42e8d00b490d7319-s800-c85.jpg" style="height: 349px; width: 620px;" title="The bacterium that causes syphilis is spread through sexual contact. It's easily cured with antibiotics, but can be hard to diagnose. (CDC/Phanie/Science Source)" /></div><div><div><p>The number of babies born with syphilis has shot up, and it&#39;s taking a toll.</p></div></div></div><p>Of the 458 babies born last year with syphilis, 33 of were stillborn or died shortly after birth. From 2012 to 2014, there&#39;s been a 38 percent increase in cases of congenital syphilis. The spike reverses a previously falling trend in the rates of babies with syphilis from 2008 to 2012, according to a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6444a3.htm?s_cid=mm6444a3_w">report</a>&nbsp;released Thursday in&nbsp;Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.</p><p>As rates of new syphilis infections rise and fall, rates of fetal and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/stdfact-syphilis-detailed.htm">congenital syphilis&nbsp;</a>tend to follow suite, says Virginia Bowen, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and lead author on the study. If a pregnant woman carries the bacteria, syphilis can infect the unborn fetus. When that happens, a lot of things can go awry. &quot;Up to 40 percent of babies will die in utero or shortly after delivery,&quot; Bowen says. &quot;Or they might have a severe illness like blindness or deafness or other types of damage.&quot;</p><p>It&#39;s hard to know the reason behind the recent surge in syphilis cases, Bowen says. &quot;The only thing I can say is syphilis is going up right now across the board,&quot; she says. &quot;From &#39;13 to &#39;14, we are seeing syphilis going up everywhere, including among the women, and we don&#39;t have the answers as to why.&quot;</p><p>The rising rates in congenital syphilis might betray a larger problem among health care for women and pregnant women, Bowen says. &quot;There are a lot of barriers to getting into the door at the prenatal care provider. That could be related to insurance status, stigma or discrimination.&quot; If women aren&#39;t getting adequate prenatal care, then they can&#39;t be screened for syphilis.</p><p>Access to care can be particularly hard for certain populations, says&nbsp;<a href="https://www.bcm.edu/people/view/3b0b0dd8-3ad5-11e5-8d53-005056b104be">Dr. Martha Rac</a>, a maternal-fetal medicine physician at Ben Taub Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston who was not involved with the study. &quot;African-American women are more disproportionately affected by syphilis than any other race,&quot; she says. And 57 percent of children with congenital syphilis were born to African-American women.</p><p>Lack of prenatal care is probably the greatest contributor to the upturn in congenital syphilis, Rac says. &quot;It seems to be the common theme that women having congenitally infected babies overwhelmingly have, if any, late, poor prenatal care. That is a big area which can be targeted from a public health standpoint.&quot;</p><p>Some states have been harder hit than others. California went from 35 cases in 2012 to 99 in 2014, while Texas continued to see a slight decline in the overall number of babies born with syphilis. &quot;In April, I designated Fresno County as an area of high syphilis, so providers are required to screen for syphilis three times during pregnancy,&quot; says Dr. Ken Bird, health officer for the Fresno County Department of Public Health.</p><p>There are states that have free health coverage for pregnant women. &quot;In California, every pregnant female has coverage for prenatal care [through the Medi-Cal program]. Many don&#39;t realize that, and they&#39;re not sure how to access that care,&quot; Bird says. Other states may cover prenatal visits through state Children&#39;s Health Insurance Programs.</p><p>Syphilis is a difficult disease to diagnose, Bowen says. Many people become asymptomatic after the first lesions or rashes appear, but can still pass the infection on to their unborn children. But as long as the infection is caught early enough, a simple course of antibiotics is enough to ensure a healthy baby. &quot;Of the 458 cases we had last year, every single one of them is considered preventable,&quot; she says.</p><p>&mdash;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/11/12/455768422/more-babies-are-dying-because-of-congenital-syphilis?ft=nprml&amp;f=455768422"><em> via NPR</em></a></p></p> Fri, 13 Nov 2015 11:15:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/more-babies-are-dying-because-congenital-syphilis-113771 Work on parasite diseases earns Nobel Prize for medicine http://www.wbez.org/news/work-parasite-diseases-earns-nobel-prize-medicine-113173 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP_264208766266_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="res445981163" previewtitle="Satoshi Omura, Youyou Tu and William C. Campbell share in the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine."><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="Satoshi Omura, Youyou Tu and William C. Campbell share in the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/10/05/nobels-winners-medicine_custom-5c0e8a8c02c077dca0d1c876ac562805d17298e8-s800-c85.jpg" style="text-align: center; height: 263px; width: 610px;" title="Satoshi Omura, Youyou Tu and William C. Campbell share in the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. (Courtesy Nobel Prize Committee)" /></p><p style="text-align: justify;">The medicines they helped develop are credited with improving the lives of millions. And now three researchers working in the U.S., Japan, and China have won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Among the winners: William C. Campbell of Drew University in Madison N.J., for his work on the roundworm parasite.</p></div><p style="text-align: justify;">Born in Ireland, Campbell shares half the prize with Satoshi Omura of Kitasato University in Japan, who has researched the same parasite. The other half of the award goes to Youyou Tu of the China Academy of Traditional Medicine in Beijing, China, for her work in developing therapies for malaria.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">Taken together, the three &quot;have transformed the treatment of parasitic diseases,&quot; according to the Nobel Prize committee. &quot;The global impact of their discoveries and the resulting benefit to mankind are immeasurable.&quot;</p><p style="text-align: justify;">All of the researchers were born in the 1930s; much of their key research was published around 1980. And their findings came after intense searches for existing natural components that might help fight diseases.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">Working in Japan, Omura isolated novel strains of Streptomyces bacteria from soil samples that not only had antibacterial components, but also had the potential to combat other harmful microorganisms.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">In the U.S., Campbell explored the effects of Omura&#39;s Streptomyces cultures and found that, as the Nobel committee says, &quot;a component from one of the cultures was remarkably efficient against parasites in domestic and farm animals.&quot;</p><p style="text-align: justify;">The active compound, called Avermectin, was further developed to become Ivermectin, which is now used around the world to protect people and animals from a range of parasites, from River Blindness to Lymphatic Filariasis (also known as Elephantiasis).</p><p style="text-align: justify;">&quot;I humbly accept this prize,&quot; Omura said when he was contacted by the Nobel committee today. Saying there are &quot;many, many researchers&quot; who are doing important work, he added, &quot;I may be very, very lucky.&quot;</p><p style="text-align: justify;">Anecdotes have long held that Omura found the life-changing soil sample while he was doing what he loved: playing golf. He clarified that a bit today, saying it had happened &quot;very close to the golf course.&quot;</p><p style="text-align: justify;">Tu revolutionized how malaria is fought by applying ancient techniques from China&#39;s traditional herbal medicine to isolate and purify a component from the plant&nbsp;Artemisia annua&nbsp;that could fight malaria in animals and people.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/IrNL27eWKOI?rel=0" width="560"></iframe></p><p style="text-align: justify;">Tu used those insights to extract the component, now known as Artemisinin, and to show that it could beat malaria. The Nobel committee says Artemisinin represented &quot;a new class of antimalarial agents that rapidly kill the Malaria parasites at an early stage of their development, which explains its unprecedented potency in the treatment of severe Malaria.&quot;</p><p style="text-align: justify;">The plant that yielded the compound,&nbsp;Artemisia annua,&nbsp;is also known as qinghao, sweet wormwood and sweet Annie. Its use in traditional Chinese medicine dates back more than 2,000 years.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">The work that led to the discovery of Artemisinin began in the late 1960s, when China launched a large-scale effort to develop an antimalarial treatment to protect North Vietnamese soldiers from the deadly disease.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">To illustrate how malaria works &mdash; and how humans have fought it &mdash; NPR&#39;s Adam Cole produced a video feature in 2012, explaining how that story ranges from the use of quinine (and the gin and tonic) to the Vietnam War.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">&mdash;<em><a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/10/05/445976576/work-on-parasite-diseases-earns-nobel-prize-for-medicine?ft=nprml&amp;f=445976576" target="_blank"> via NPR</a></em></p></p> Mon, 05 Oct 2015 10:33:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/work-parasite-diseases-earns-nobel-prize-medicine-113173 Who needs an adult measles booster shot? http://www.wbez.org/news/who-needs-adult-measles-booster-shot-111524 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP233664971953_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>If you&rsquo;re an adult of a certain age, the measles vaccine you received as a child might not be enough.</p><p>In the wake of the spreading measles outbreak that hit a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/five-children-palatine-day-care-diagnosed-measles-111503">local day care center</a> last week, officials say some adults may need to get measles boosters or be re-vaccinated.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related: <a class="underlined" href="http://www.wbez.org/news/city-chicago-falls-below-safe-levels-measles-vaccination-111512">Chicago falls below safe levels for measles vaccination</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the only people who can be presumed immune are the following:</p><ul dir="ltr"><li>Those with &ldquo;documentation&rdquo; of receiving a &ldquo;live measles virus containing vaccine&rdquo;</li><li>Those with &ldquo;laboratory evidence of immunity&rdquo; (determined through a test doctors can administer called a titer)</li><li>Those with &ldquo;laboratory confirmation of [having survived the] disease&rdquo; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</li><li>Those born before 1957</li></ul><p>&ldquo;Persons who do not have documentation of adequate vaccination or other acceptable evidence of immunity should be vaccinated,&rdquo; the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices said in its <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr6204a1.htm">2013 report. </a></p><p>Lurie Children&rsquo;s Hospital pediatric infectious disease specialist Dr. Tina Tan said it&rsquo;s also important for adults, especially those in contact with children, to know if they got two doses of the vaccine. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;If you have an adult person who is worried about measles and doesn&rsquo;t know whether or not they&rsquo;ve received two doses of the vaccine, they should see their physician,&rdquo; Tan said. &ldquo;If for some reason they are not able to find out if they got two doses it&#39;s not going to hurt them to get a booster dose to protect themselves.&rdquo;</p><p>Between 1963 and 1967, U.S. doctors were administering both &ldquo;killed&rdquo; and &ldquo;live&rdquo; measles vaccines to their patients. Later, it was discovered that the &ldquo;killed&rdquo; vaccine was not effective. So, the <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/measles/faqs-dis-vac-risks.htm">CDC suggests</a> that &ldquo;People who were vaccinated prior to 1968 with either inactivated (killed) measles vaccine or measles vaccine of unknown type should be re-vaccinated with at least one dose of live attenuated measles vaccine.&rdquo;</p><p>Tan says this is important not just for an adult&rsquo;s health.</p><p>&ldquo;One of the reasons for adults to get vaccinated is basically to prevent them from getting the disease,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;But also to protect young infants that may be around who are too young to be vaccinated.&rdquo;</p><p>The double dosage of measles vaccine is especially important, the CDC report states, &ldquo;for students attending colleges or other post-high school education institutions, health care personnel and international travelers.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at<a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"> @monicaeng</a> or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Mon, 09 Feb 2015 15:23:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/who-needs-adult-measles-booster-shot-111524 Illinois officials not enforcing rules on school vaccinations http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-officials-not-enforcing-rules-school-vaccinations-111513 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP233664971953.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>According to state records, at least 130 Illinois schools report measles vaccination levels of under 90 percent. That is the minimum percentage <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/city-chicago-falls-below-safe-levels-measles-vaccination-111512">health officials believe communities must achieve for &ldquo;herd immunity&rdquo;&mdash;</a>an environment that can prevent a disease from spreading. &nbsp;</p><p>Schools are supposed to lose 10 percent of their state funding when they fall below the 90 percent level of vaccinations. But no school has ever been sanctioned for this violation, according to the Illinois State Board of Education.</p><p><a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=09300SB0805&amp;GA=93&amp;SessionId=3&amp;DocTypeId=SB&amp;LegID=3675&amp;DocNum=805&amp;GAID=3&amp;Session=">Illinois code</a> states that funding &ldquo;shall be withheld by the regional superintendent until the number of students in compliance&rdquo;... reaches the &ldquo;specified percentage or higher.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/officials-predict-more-illinois-measles-cases-111509">But even as measles cases arrive in Illinois</a>, the state&rsquo;s Board of Education says it has no plans to start enforcing the rules through funding sanctions any time soon.</p><p>&quot;We are not looking to penalize a district or remove money from a district,&quot; said ISBE spokesman Matt Vanover. &quot;What we&#39;re looking for is compliance. It&#39;s difficult for educators to remove or exclude a child from education, especially when the child is from a poor or struggling family. Local districts will follow through with initaitves and reminders of their own.&quot;</p><p>Still, some doctors believe the state&#39;s purported 90 percent vaccination standard is too low.</p><p>&ldquo;In order for a community to have herd immunity you really need to maintain vaccination rates around 95 percent,&rdquo; said Dr. Tina Tan, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Lurie Children&rsquo;s Hospital in Chicago. &ldquo;Otherwise, what happens is that when the rates below drop below 95 percent, you can have the reemergence or reappearance of these preventable diseases occurring in individuals that are either not vaccinated or are too young to be vaccinated.&rdquo;</p><p>That&rsquo;s what happened this week in Illinois when <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/five-children-palatine-day-care-diagnosed-measles-111503">infants at a day care center</a> in northwest suburban Illinois were diagnosed with measles.</p><p>All those children were too young to be eligible for the measles, mumps and rubella vaccination (MMR), which is traditionally administered after a child turns 1-year-old. But Cook County health officials say they expect the disease to spread.</p><p>&ldquo;The cat is out of the bag,&rdquo; Dr. Terry Mason, chief operating officer of the Cook County Department of Public Health said yesterday at a press conference in Oak Forest.</p><p>According to the <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/measles/about/complications.html">Centers for Disease Control and Prevention</a> one in 20 children who contract measles will also get pneumonia; one in 1,000 may develop encephalitis that could lead to deafness and mental retardation; and for one or two in 1,000, the disease could be fatal.</p><p>Thursday, WBEZ contacted schools who, according to the ISBE vaccination site, self-reported measles vaccination rates as low as 27 percent. The schools claimed that the site was showing inaccurate information.</p><p>Vanover acknowledges that the self-reported data may be flawed, but says it can&#39;t be fixed.&nbsp; After the yearly November 17 deadline, &quot;the data becomes locked in for reporting purposes and we don&rsquo;t have any opportunity to go back and correct it,&quot; he said.</p><p>For more updated information, Vanover suggests calling individual districts.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a> or write to her at meng@wbez.org.</em></p><p><em>WBEZ web producer Chris Hagan contributed to this story. </em></p></p> Fri, 06 Feb 2015 13:38:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-officials-not-enforcing-rules-school-vaccinations-111513 Suspicion lingers over Ebola treatment http://www.wbez.org/news/suspicion-lingers-over-ebola-treatment-110977 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/african food truck.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Last Friday, Illinois health officials presented plans to deal with any future Ebola cases in the state. These include establishing a test lab, taking the temperature of some foreign travelers, and forming a task force aimed at better communication.</p><p>But a trip to a nearby West African lunch truck revealed that big communication gaps still remain in some parts of the city.&nbsp;</p><p>As the West African vendor served up plates of fufu and goat, he said that, so far, he hadn&rsquo;t seen any shortages in ingredients imported from Africa.&nbsp;<br /><br />But a customer standing in line thought the vendor was, instead, being asked about the safety of West African food.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Ebola cannot infect our food,&rdquo; said the cab driver who only wanted to be identified as Chris. &ldquo;Because our food is properly cooked. It is cooked to at least 90 degrees.&rdquo;</p><p>Chris continued by sharing his view on the true origin of Ebola.</p><p>&ldquo;That thing (Ebola) is a white man&rsquo;s disease,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;They created it in a lab to kill us, and to make the pharmaceutical companies rich.&rdquo;</p><p>Within minutes, fellow cab drivers joined in the conversation, asking &ldquo;Why is it that the black man who came from Africa, he died? But the white man lived. We won&rsquo;t let anyone fool us anymore.&rdquo;</p><p>While some of these views may seem extreme, they echo a larger question in the world health community about why an Ebola vaccine has been so long in coming.&nbsp;</p><p>Laurie Garrett is a Senior Fellow for Gobal Health at the Council on Foreign Relations. She said market forces affect the development of these medications.</p><p>&ldquo;Because it&rsquo;s so rare, and it occurs among very poor people, where is the financial market incentive for the pharmaceutical industry to get in there and commercialize it?&rdquo; she asked.</p><p>Indeed, until recently, that incentive has not existed. But it did get a big push last month when the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation committed $50 million to addressing Ebola.&nbsp;</p><p>Still, Garrett says there are other factors that have slowed progress on an Ebola vaccine.</p><p>&ldquo;How do you clinically test a vaccine against a disease that you cannot possibly ethically induce in your test subjects, and that occurs so rarely,&rdquo; she asks. &ldquo;Also, you don&rsquo;t really have a population that is routinely exposed in order to test how well the vaccine really works.&rdquo;</p><p>One Liberian-born, American professor offered up an answer to that question. He believes human trials have already begun...on unsuspecting Africans as part of a plan by the U.S. Department of Defense. The Delaware State plant pathologist detailed these suspicions in a letter that went viral last month in Liberia&rsquo;s largest daily paper, further fueling speculation.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>This and other factors have driven continuing suspicion about a racial component to the outbreak.<br /><br />&ldquo;The white woman who went to England: she was healed,&rdquo; Chris, the cab driver, noted. &ldquo;The nurse who went to Spain: She was healed. The white boy who who came to America. He was healed. But the black man who came to Texas, in America&mdash;in America he died.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>Last week, Illinois&rsquo; Director of Public Health LeMar Hasbrouck stressed that communication will be key in the Ebola fight. And that the new task force would have to: &ldquo;Coordinate public messaging so we are not giving different messages to different audiences, so we are all on the same page there.&rdquo;</p><p>WBEZ asked Hasbrouck&rsquo;s department how and if it planned to address some of the racially-based perceptions on Ebola. The department did not respond.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at <a href="http://twitter.com/monicaeng" target="_blank">@monicaeng</a>&nbsp;or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 13:51:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/suspicion-lingers-over-ebola-treatment-110977 '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