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Disease that’s killed millions of bats spreads to Washington state

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SEATTLE (AP) — A fungal disease that has killed millions of bats has been confirmed in Washington state.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Thursday it’s the first time white-nose syndrome has turned up in the western United States.

The U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center verified the disease in a little brown bat found this month in North Bend, about 30 miles east of Seattle.

Officials say the news is concerning because the disease spreads rapidly. It has killed more than 6 million bats in 28 states and five Canadian provinces since it was first documented nearly a decade ago in New York.

Wildlife officials plan to monitor the area in Washington state where the sick bat was found to find out whether other bats are affected.

The disease doesn’t affect people or other animals. But bats are valuable because they eat mosquitoes and other insects that damage trees and commercial crops.