What is White-nose Syndrome?

White-nose syndrome is an emergent disease of hibernating bats that has spread from the northeastern to the central United States at an alarming rate. Since the winter of 2007-2008, millions of insect-eating bats in at least 29 states and five Canadian provinces have died from this devastating disease. The disease is named for the white fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, that infects skin of the muzzle, ears, and wings of hibernating bats. The fungus thrives in cold and humid conditions characteristic of caves and mines used by bats. 

Scientists believe that White-nose Syndrome is transmitted primarily from bat to bat. There is a strong possibility that it may also be transmitted by humans inadvertently carrying the fungus from cave to cave on their clothing and gear.

Bats affected with White-nose Syndrome don't always have obvious fungal growth, but they might behave strangely inside and outside of the cave where they hibernate during the winter.

Learn more at the USGS White-Nose Syndrome website.

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Are bats dangerous? 

All healthy bats try to avoid humans by taking flight and are not purposely aggressive. Most bats are about the size of a mouse and use their small teeth and weak jaws to grind up insects. You should avoid handling bats because several species, such as the hoary and big brown bats, have large teeth that can puncture skin if they are handled...

How are bats affected by wind turbines?

Dead bats are found beneath wind turbines all over the world. It’s estimated that tens to hundreds of thousands die at wind turbines each year in North America alone. Unfortunately, it’s not yet clear why this is happening. It’s possible that wind turbines interfere with seasonal migration and mating patterns in some species of bats. More than...

What species of bats are affected by White-nose Syndrome?

White-nose Syndrome mostly affects hibernating bats. More than half of the 47 bat species living in the United States and Canada hibernate to survive the winter. Eleven bat species, including three endangered species and one proposed species, are already affected by White-nose Syndrome or exposed to the causative fungus, Pseudogymnoascus...

What should I do if I find dead or dying bats, or if I observe bats with signs of White-nose Syndrome?

If you find a dead or dying bat: Contact your state wildlife agency, file an electronic report in those states that offer this service, e-mail U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists in your area, or contact your nearest Fish and Wildlife Service field office to report your potential White-nose Syndrome (WNS) observations. It is important to...

What should cavers know and do in regard to White-nose Syndrome?

In response to White-nose Syndrome (WNS), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and individual states request that cavers observe all cave closures and advisories, and avoid caves, mines or passages containing hibernating bats to minimize disturbance to them. The Service asks that cavers and cave visitors stay out of all caves in the affected states...

Does White-nose Syndrome pose a risk to human health?

Thousands of people have visited affected caves and mines since White-nose Syndrome (WNS) was first observed, and there have been no reported human illnesses attributable to WNS. We are still learning about WNS, but we know of no risk to humans from contact with WNS-affected bats. However, we urge taking precautions and not exposing yourself to...
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Date published: July 5, 2017

Hot new imagery of wintering bats suggests a group behavior for battling white-nose syndrome

Hot new imagery from temperature-sensing cameras suggests that bats who warm up from hibernation together throughout the winter may be better at surviving white nose syndrome, a disease caused by a cold-loving fungus ravaging insect-eating bat populations in the United States and Canada.

Date published: June 1, 2017

Alabama Survey Finds First Southeastern Bat with White-Nose Syndrome

Biologists have confirmed white-nose syndrome in the southeastern bat, or Myotis austroriparius, for the first time. The species joins eight other hibernating bat species in North America that are afflicted with the deadly bat fungal disease.

Date published: March 31, 2016

Bat with white-nose syndrome confirmed in Washington state

OLYMPIA, Wash. – White-nose syndrome (WNS) has been confirmed in a little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) found near North Bend – the first recorded occurrence of this devastating bat disease in western North America. The presence of this disease was verified by the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center

Date published: January 5, 2015

How Does White-Nose Syndrome Kill Bats?

For the first time, scientists have developed a detailed explanation of how white-nose syndrome (WNS) is killing millions of bats in North America, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Wisconsin. The scientists created a model for how the disease progresses from initial infection to death in bats during hibernation.

Date published: May 29, 2014

Ultra-violet Light Works as Screening Tool for Bats with White-nose Syndrome.

Scientists working to understand the devastating bat disease known as white-nose syndrome (WNS) now have a new, non-lethal tool to identify bats with WNS lesions —ultraviolet, or UV, light.

Date published: November 19, 2012

White-Nose Syndrome Bat Recovery May Present Challenges Similar to Those in Some Recovering AIDS Patients

Bats recovering from white-nose syndrome show evidence of immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (IRIS), according to a hypothesis proposed by the U.S. Geological Survey and collaborators at National Institutes of Health. This condition was first described in HIV-AIDS patients and, if proven in bats surviving WNS, would be the first natural occurrence of IRIS ever observed.

Date published: May 11, 2012

USGS Continues Research on White-Nose Syndrome

National Wildlife Health Center Collaborates with EcoHealth Alliance
 

Date published: December 15, 2010

Tattered Wings: Bats Grounded by White-Nose Syndrome’s Lethal Effects on Life-Support Functions of Wings

Madison, Wisconsin—Damage to bat wings from the fungus associated with white-nose syndrome (WNS) may cause catastrophic imbalance in life-support processes, according to newly published research.

Date published: October 30, 2008

Newly Identified Fungus Implicated in White-Nose Syndrome in Bats: Mysterious Bat Disease Decimates Colonies in the Northeast

A previously undescribed, cold-loving fungus has been linked to white-nose syndrome, a condition associated with the deaths of over 100,000 hibernating bats in the northeastern United States. The findings are published in this week's issue of Science.

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Little brown bat with white-nose syndrome
March 2, 2017

Little brown bat with white-nose syndrome

Little brown bat with white-nose syndrome

A bat with White-nose syndrome hanging in a cave. Photo by USFWS.
October 31, 2016

A bat with White-nose syndrome.

A bat with White-nose syndrome hanging in a cave. Photo by USFWS.

Image: White-Nose Syndrome Lesions Under UV Light
March 15, 2016

White-Nose Syndrome Lesions Under UV Light

Long-wave ultraviolet (UV) and white-light illumination of lesions associated with white-nose syndrome.  Points of orange–yellow fluorescence (arrows) detected on a roosting Indiana myotis (Myotis sodalis) following surface illumination with a field-portable 9-watt 368-nm fluorescent UV light (photo by Tina Cheng with permission).

Image: UV Light Showing White-Nose Syndrome in Bat's Wing
March 15, 2016

UV Light Showing White-Nose Syndrome in Bat's Wing

Long-wave ultraviolet (UV) and white-light illumination of lesions associated with white-nose syndrome.  Wing from dead Tri-colored bat (Perimyotis subflavus) lit from above with hand-held 51 LED 385-nm UV flashlight shows points of orange–yellow fluorescence.  

Image: Bat with White-nose Syndrome
March 14, 2016

Bat with White-nose Syndrome

Hibernating little brown bat with white muzzle typical of White-nose syndrome.

video thumbnail: Under Siege: Battling Flying Carp and Giant Pythons and How Science Can Help
July 3, 2012

Under Siege: Battling Flying Carp and Giant Pythons and How Science Can Help

Over the last several decades, non-native species have continued to invade sensitive ecosystems in the United States. Two high-profile species, Asian carp in the Midwest and Burmese pythons in the Everglades, are the focus of much attention by decision makers, the public and the media. Sharon Gross, Robert Reed and Cynthia Kolar discuss issues related to invasive species

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video thumbnail: Bat White-nose Syndrome: There is a New Fungus Among Us By Dr. David Blehert
March 10, 2012

Bat White-nose Syndrome: There is a New Fungus Among Us By Dr. David Blehert

Since first discovered in 2007 in New York, white-nose syndrome has spread to 16 states, including Virginia and Maryland, and four Canadian provinces. The disease is estimated to have killed over five million hibernating bats. An outbreak of infectious disease among bats on the order of white-nose syndrome is without precedent, and although insect-feeding wild bats may

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USGS
December 14, 2010

Tattered Wings: Bats Grounded by White-Nose Syndrome's Lethal Effects on Life-Support Functions of Wings

Damage to bat wings from the fungus associated with white-nose syndrome (WNS) may cause catastrophic imbalance in life-support processes, and this imbalance may be to blame for the more than 1 million deaths of bats due to WNS thus far. Paul Cryan, USGS bat ecologist at the Fort Collins Science Center, discusses this newly published USGS research.

Image: Brown Bat Necropsy
March 7, 2008

Brown Bat Necropsy

USGS pathologist Nancy Thomas conducting necropsy on little brown bat at the USGS National Wildlife Health Center (Allison Klein, USGS).

Image: Dead Bats Near Cave Entrance
March 1, 2008

Dead Bats Near Cave Entrance

Bats die prematurely when affected by white-nose syndrome.