Preventing Human-based Spread of White-nose Syndrome
Over 6 million bats have died in eastern North America since white-nose syndrome was first observed in 2006. The disease is caused by Pseudogymnoascus destructans, a fungus that produces millions of spores that settle on cave floors and walls.
We are working to find better ways to clean clothing and equipment so that people who visit caves do not accidentally spread this devastating disease to other caves. We believe that proper cleaning measures are essential for preventing long-distance movement of the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome.
Effective treatments for clothing and equipment have been incorporated into the National Decontamination Protocol, a collaborative effort among federal and state government agencies and several non-governmental organizations. The goal is to identify and publicize very specific cleaning steps to prevent Pseudogymnoascus destructans contamination of new sites and slow the spread of white-nose syndrome. For example, clothing and fabric-based equipment like backpacks should be washed with detergent and then soaked in hot water (at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit) for 20 minutes or more. Materials with hard, nonporous surfaces can be cleaned with bleach, 60% ethanol or isopropanol alcohol, or other cleaning agents following label directions. The use of cleaning wipes and hand sanitizers is also recommended. The white-nose syndrome cleaning protocol is updated as Northern Research Station scientists evaluate the effectiveness of new cleaning products.
- Jessie A. Glaeser, U.S. Forest Service Northern Research Station Research Plant Pathologist
- Last modified: October 27, 2020