How Texas Is Fighting White Nose Syndrome, The Disease Killing Bats Nationwide

Our daily roundup of Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelJuly 27, 2017 12:53 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has received a federal grant to study white nose syndrome – a disease that’s been wiping out bat populations across the country.

“White nose syndrome is a disease in bats caused by a fungus with a fancy name of Pseudogymnoascus destructans,” says Jonah Evans, state mammologist for Texas Parks and Wildlife.

It disease was discovered about 10 years ago in New York, “and so far it’s been responsible for the deaths of over six million bats,” Evans says, adding that its spread, understandably, “has a lot of bat biologists very concerned.”

The fungus that causes white nose syndrome has already spread to more than 30 states – and was found in Texas for the first time this year. Researchers discovered traces of the fungus on three bat species in north Texas this past March.

But Evans says it could be a few years before there’s evidence of white nose syndrome itself – so in the meantime, the grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will help Texas officials keep tabs on bats.

“We don’t have a fulltime bat biologist,” Evans says. “I spend a portion of my time doing bat stuff, but we really need a lot more – so we’re going to use that money to help us continue to do surveys for white nose syndrome around the state.”

Texas received $30,000 to study and monitor white nose syndrome – the maximum amount a state could receive.

Evans notes Texas has the highest diversity of bats in entire the United States. And it’s unclear what will happen to serval of Texas’ 32 species if those bats become infected with the disease.

The first documented, locally-acquired case of Zika in the continental U.S. this year has turned up in Texas.

The Texas Department of State Health Services says a person in Hidalgo County, bordering Mexico, tested positive for the mosquito-borne disease.

That individual has not traveled outside of the area, leading health officials to believe the virus was contracted from an infected mosquito.

State Health Department spokesperson Chris Van Deusen says people who live in the valley are more at-risk for exposure to Zika than anyone else in Texas, as many residents trek across the border to Mexico and back. “And that’s really why we’ve been focusing on the Rio Grande Valley,” Van Deusen says.

Zika has been linked to severe birth defects in newborns when pregnant mothers are infected with the disease.

Texas officials say the individual infected in Hidalgo County is not capable of transmitting the disease anymore.

The Austin Police Department could pull its entire fleet of Ford Explorer Police Interceptors off the road as soon as tomorrow.

The move comes amid concerns of carbon monoxide leaking into the vehicles.

The Austin American-Statesman reports police and city officials were finalizing plans late last night to ensure the department had enough patrol cars to replace the 400 SUVs.

Dozens of officers have needed medical evaluation for exposure since rthe police department began installing carbon monoxide sensors in the vehicles this spring.

The problem first arose when an officer got dizzy and nearly wrecked his car last March.