A squirrel infected with the plague forced the closure of campgrounds near Los Angeles, California. Officials announced that the evacuation and closure was a precaution after the rodent was trapped during a routine check.
No one in the area is believed to have been infected with the plague, also known as the Black Death. The disease is a bacterial infection and was responsible for killing up to 25 million Europeans in the Middle Ages.
Despite its ancient roots, the disease is still present in today’s society. However, it poses a smaller threat due to better hygiene and antibiotics. The BBC reports that the disease can be transferred from animals to humans through the bites of infected fleas.
Officials will test more squirrels in the area before it is re-opened to the public to make sure the infection hasn’t spread. Jonathan Fielding, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Health added that agriculture workers will also dust squirrel burrows to reduce the flea population.
Reuters notes that Fielding added, “It is important for the public to know that there have only been four cases of human plague in Los Angeles County residents since 1984, none of which were fatal.”
And if Fielding’s assurances aren’t enough, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that about seven cases of the plague are reported each year in the United States. Much less than 24 million. The disease is fatal if not treated with antibiotics.
The health department added that the plague has been known to infect animals in the San Gabriel Mountains, particularly the squirrel population. Previous checks have identified five squirrels carrying the Black Death since 1996.
The most recent plague-ridden squirrel was trapped on July 16. The routine test showed on July 23rd that the squirrel was infected. There is no word on what happened to the furry creature.
Are you surprised to hear the plague still exists today?
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