More bad news has befallen Yosemite National Park this week, as officials have announced that the Tuolumne Meadows campground area of the park will be closed from August 17 to August 21 following the death of two plague-infected squirrels.
The news of the Yosemite campground closure comes just days after two young campers died when a limb from an oak tree fell on their tent while they slept. To further dampen the current reputation of Yosemite, a week prior to this announcement of the closing of Tuolumne Meadows camp, a young child from California contracted the plague from another of the park’s camps after visiting the area with family.
A blink-and-you-miss-it message on the Yosemite park website originally stated that only one squirrel had died from the plague in Tuolumne Meadows campground, the statement was later updated to state that it was, in fact, two squirrels.
“Two squirrels from Tuolumne Meadows Campground were recently found to have died from plague. Plague is a non-native disease most often spread to both humans and wildlife through flea bites. Treating the campground with deltamethrin will protect both human and wildlife health by killing the fleas that spread the disease.”
As mentioned in the brief statement, the campground will be treated with deltamethrin, a man-made insecticide used to kill pests — such as the plague-infected fleas infesting the Yosemite park — but does little harm to humans and animals. This course of action was decided, according to Karen Smith, director of the California Department of Public Health, based on “new evidence of plague activity in animals” within the Yosemite campground. She also noted that despite the recent appearance of plague in Yosemite, there is minimal risk to humans, and that campground and park visitors are being briefed on how to minimize transmission of the disease.
“Although this is a rare disease, and the current risk to humans is low, eliminating the fleas is the best way to protect the public from the disease.”
Though the plague has killed millions of people around the world in the past, it is treatable with antibiotics. Yosemite campground and park visitors are being advised to avoid walking and camping near rodent burrows, wear long pants tucked into boots, and use insect repellent containing DEET while out walking or camping in Yosemite.
Though the Yosemite Tuolumne Meadows campground is closed for a week in order to deal with the plague-infected flea problem, officials believe the campground will re-open to campers and park visitors, and will be plague-free by the week of August 22.
[Image Credit: KTLA]