ALBANY, N.Y. — Scientists studying white nose syndrome in bats estimate the fungal ailment has killed at least 5.7 million bats in 16 states and Canada, providing alarming new numbers about the scope of its decimation.

First detected in a cave west of Albany in 2006, white nose has spread to 16 states from the Northeast to the South and as far west as Kentucky. It also has been detected in four Canadian provinces.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday released the new estimate.

Researchers say bats provide tremendous value to the U.S. economy as natural pest control for farms and forests, while playing an essential role in helping control insects that can spread disease to people.