White Nose Syndrome
Why are America’s bats dying?
Since the winter of 2006-2007, at least one million insect-eating bats from at least nine states have died from white nose syndrome (WNS). This illness, named for the white fungus often seen on the muzzles, ears, and wings of infected bats, poses a threat to cave hibernating bats of the United States and potentially all temperate regions of the world. Scientifically called Geomyces destructans, the fungus invades the skin of bats, producing ulcers and often altering bats’ hibernation arousal patterns, making them leave their hibernation before they are ready and causing them to starve.
How you can help
WNS is likely spread by contacts among bats and with other environments. However, movements of humans and other animals between caves could also promote the spread of WNS. Scientists are currently working to determine if fungal infection is the sole cause of WNS-associated bat mortality, but you can help prevent the spread of the fungus by decontaminating your clothing, shoes and gear before and after entering caves.
Decontaminating not only helps prevent the spread of the fungus, it reduces the risk of other potential fungal, bacterial, or viral agents within caves. It also reduces potential disease-related impacts to humans. Decontamination procedures should be followed between every cave/mine visit.
Download the Decontamination Procedures brochure so you can take it with you and help others to act responsibly.
How to Decontaminate
Several cleaners and disinfectants can be used in the decontamination process:
+ Lysol® IC Quaternary Disinfectant Cleaner with a minimum of 0.3% quaternary ammonium compound.
+ Lysol® All-purpose Professional Cleaner with a minimum of 0.3% quaternary ammonium compound.
+ Formula 409® Antibacterial All-Purpose Cleaner with a minimum of 0.3% quaternary ammonium compound.
+ a 10% solution of household bleach: 1 part bleach to 9 parts water
+ Lysol® Disinfecting Wipes
+ boil nets and other submersible gear for 15 minutes
Decontamination procedures should be followed between every cave/mine visit.
*Do not use alcohol; it is ineffective at killing the bacteria.
What gear gets decontaminated, and how?
Any clothing, footwear and gear, including outer clothing, should not be used in multiple caves in the same day unless the cleaning and decontamination can be performed between each cave
Step One: remove all soil and organic material from equipment, clothing, and boots using water and a brush.
Step Two: Rinse thoroughly
Step Three: Follow by soaking for a minimum of 10 minutes using recommended productsStep Step Four: Rinse and air dry
*For a clothing alternative: use Tyvek® or ProShield® brand disposable suits.
Submersible gear involves all clothing and equipment that can be submerged without damage.
Wash all clothing and any appropriate equipment in washing machine or by hand using conventional detergents.
You can use cold, warm or hot water and Woolite® fabric wash is highly recommended.
Where possible, rubber (wellington-type) caving boots (which withstand harsh decontaminating products and are easily cleaned) are recommended.
1) Boots need to be fully scrubbed and rinsed to remove all soil and organic material.
2) Decontaminate rubber and leather boots, (including soles and leather uppers) with one of the recommended products for a minimum of 10 minutes
3) Rinse and air dry
Ropes and Harnesses
Only Sterling rope and webbing have shown no damage when using recommended products, other brands of rope/webbing have not been tested for integrity after decontamination.
1) Wash rope/webbing in a front loading washing machine on the gentle cycle using Woolite® Extra Delicates detergent
2) Immerse in a dilution of Lysol IC Quaternary Disinfectant Cleaner for 15 minutes.
3) Rinse twice in clean water and air dry
*Brands not tested should be dedicated to one cave or not used at all to prevent the spread of WNS
Non-submersible Gear (equipment that will be damaged by submersion)
1) Clean thoroughly with soap and water
2) Decontaminate using recommended decontaminating product to the outside surface for a minimum of 10 minutes
3) Rinse and air dry
Cameras and Electronic Equipment
If possible, do not bring electronic equipment into a cave
If practical, cameras and other similar equipment that must be brought to a cave may be:
-Placed in plastic casing (i.e. underwater camera housing)
-Or wrapped in plastic wrap where only the lens is left unwrapped to allow for photos to be taken. The plastic wrap can then be decontaminated by using Lysol® Disinfecting Wipes and discarded after use or wipes can be applied directly on camera surfaces or plastic casing
In addition to caving gear, vehicles used to transport equipment may harbor spores
Keep vehicles as clean as possible by storing gear in clean containers
Decontaminate containers, along with your gear, using one of the recommended decontamination products
*Put all gear into a sealed plastic tub for transport in vehicle.