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Rare Disease Which Mummifies Snakes Sweeping California - Reports

A rare infection which only afflicts snakes, making their skin fall apart and giving them the appearance of mummification was first discovered in 2008. It has since begun to sweep across the country and is found in multiple serpent species.

Like something out of an ancient Egyptian curse, a rare fungal disease has been found in California which appears to mummify snakes.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) said on Tuesday that an infected kingsnake was found in Plymouth by a member of the public, who was shocked at the creature's "emaciated and suffering" state.

The snake appeared to be completely mummified with broken and blistering skin, falling away from its body.

​The creature was taken to the Tri County Wildlife Care in Sutter Creek in Sierra Nevada, Amador County where it was "humanely euthanised" due to its “poor prognosis.” 

Following the animals death, a postmortem revealed that the snake was infected with the fungus which causes the disease.

The fungus also appeared this week on the skin of a dead Florida water snake discovered by the CDFW in Folsom, which according to the news release, “suggest the original case was not isolated.”

People who spot infected snakes have been asked to report them but to not handle or disturb the animal to prevent the fungus spreading.

The illness has been dubbed "snake fungal disease" as it so far has only affected serpents and just one case has been seen in the state despite the disease first being discovered by scientists in 2008.

First discovered more than 10 years ago, the fungus called "Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola" causes the infection which brings about the mummification appearance.

Snakes catch the infection through scratches on their skin or by coming into contact with other affected snakes. It then kills the animal by preventing them from eating and making them vulnerable to predators.

Since then, it has been found in 20 different snake species in 23 states across the United States and has even been found in Europe.

According to LiveScience, the CDFW says that it is unlikely to affect humans.

"There is no evidence that SFD is transmittable from snakes to humans," the CDFW report said.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) claims that environmental changes could be responsible for the increase in "severe and fatal infections in some snake populations."




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