Disease that is killing bats at an alarming rate now found in Richland County



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COLUMBIA, South Carolina — A disease that has killed millions of bats in the eastern United States has been found in central South Carolina, state officials said Monday.

In a news release, the Department of Natural Resources said that white-nose syndrome had been found in a bat in Richland County.

The disease turns the muzzles and other parts of the sickened bats white. It is not harmful to humans, but there is no known cure. Previously, the only known cases of the disease in South Carolina had been found in the mountain counties of Pickens and Oconee.

Last year, state officials said the disease had killed a bat in a remote part of Table Rock State Park. That was the first case confirmed in South Carolina.

The disease was first found in bats about seven years ago in New York and has been confirmed in 25 states, according to DNR. More than 6 million bats have been killed, and, in some species, the disease kills more than 98 percent of the bats that it infects, state officials said.

The fungus that causes white-nose syndrome grows best in damp, cool spaces, which are where a number of species of bats hibernate during the winter. Humans can spread the fungus from cave to cave on clothing.

"We need to act like many of the true hibernating bats in the entire state are infected," said Mary Bunch, wildlife biologist and statewide bat coordinator with DNR.

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