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Wild Colorado: New virus could protect Colo. bat colonies

A disease impacting bat colonies in North America has yet to surface in Colorado. However, a new study is giving hope to local wildlife biologists on the look-out for potential outbreaks.

Bats with the white-nose syndrome are prone to immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (IRIS), a virus that is similar to AIDS, according to the study conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Institutes of Health.

It's bad news for many bats in general, but perhaps not for Colorado's colonies. Because IRIS increases the rapidity of bat mortality, infected bats are less likely to travel abroad, according to Tina Jackson, a species conservation coordinator for the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department.

“I'm very worried about the white-nose syndrome outbreak,” Jackson said. “It's currently our understanding that it would only take one infected bat for cases of IRIS and white-nose to start occurring — this new virus could quicken the spread or it could cause a more rapid die-off of bats with WNS, which would actually be better for keeping the infection out of Colorado.”

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