Snakes turning into ‘monsters’ with hideous deformities caused by killer fungus
Snakes are turning into "monsters" as a fatal skin disease leaves them with horrific facial deformities in the US.
Experts say rates of snake fungal disease (SFD) have been soaring in the eastern half of the country.
“Signs of SFD include crusted or ulcerated scales, nodules… under the skin, abnormal molting, white opaque cloudiness of the eyes… and facial disfiguration that can be quite severe, leading to emaciation and death,” the US Geological Survey (USGS) said in a release.
“Many snake populations are already in decline due to habitat loss and dwindling prey populations, and SFD may accelerate this decline.”
Photos shared by the USGS on Facebook show snakes afflicted with the fungus become unrecognisable, reports The Charlotte Observer.
The publication described them as "monsters" saying it was "as if their bodies were dried to a crisp while the snake was alive.
"Most appear to have been blinded by the disease."
USGS scientists are working with state agencies to “better understand SFD and its potential impacts,” officials said, adding an “intervention” to prevent the decimation of “sensitive populations" was being considered.
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A 2016 study published by scientists at the National Wildlife Health Center suggested “environmental changes are likely causing the recent emergence of severe and fatal infections.”
News of the spreading disease comes weeks after the USGS reported a similarly mysterious eye illness is killing birds in multiple mid-Atlantic states.
Investigators say the “sick and dying birds” are afflicted with swollen eyes and a “crusty discharge, as well as neurological signs,” McClatchy News reported last month.
The condition began showing up in late May, the USGS said in a release.
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“No definitive cause of death is identified at this time,” officials said.
The USGS said: "Snake fungal disease is an infectious disease, confirmed in numerous species of snakes, caused by the fungus Ophidiomyces ophidiicola. SFD results from a skin infection that has been documented only in snakes.
"Recently, the number of reported cases of skin infections in snakes has increased substantially. As of August 2017, O. ophidiicola has been detected in much of the eastern half of the United States.
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"Signs of SFD include crusted or ulcerated scales, nodules (that is, abnormal bumps) under the skin, abnormal moulting, white opaque cloudiness of the eyes (not associated with moulting), and facial disfiguration that can be quite severe, leading to emaciation and death.
"Many snake populations are already in decline due to habitat loss and dwindling prey populations, and SFD may accelerate this decline."
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