Preventing human-based transmission of white nose syndrome of bats
Over 6 million bats have died in eastern North America since white-nose syndrome was first observed in 2006. The disease is caused by a fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, which can produce millions of spores that can survive in cave sediments and on cave walls. NRS scientists are finding better ways to clean clothing and equipment to prevent cave visitors from spreading this devastating wildlife disease to caves that have not been contaminated. Effective sanitation is essential to prevent long-distance movement of the pathogen.
Northern Research Stattion scientists are evaluating the efficacy of different cleaning agents and other decontamination strategies using protocols approved by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Effective treatments have been incorporated into the National Decontamination Protocol, a collaborative effort among multiple federal and state agencies and several non-governmental organizations that sets out procedures to prevent contamination of new sites to slow the spread of the disease. For example, submersible materials should be initially washed with detergent and then soaked in hot water (a minimum of 130oF) for at least 20 minutes. Materials with hard, nonporous surfaces can be cleaned with bleach, 60% ethanol or isopropanol, or a variety of cleaning agents following label directions. Recommendations are also made for the use of cleaning wipes and hand sanitizers. The protocol is updated as the efficacy of new cleaning compounds are evaluated by NRS researchers.
- Jessie A. Glaeser, U.S. Forest Service Northern Research Station Research Plant Pathologist
- Last modified: March 14, 2019