Plague-infected squirrels in California have forced one campground to close down until the problem is dealt with by infection experts.
A squirrel trapped on July 16 at the Table Mountain Campgrounds of Angeles National Forest tested positive for the infection.
Officials quickly posted a health advisory after the positive test was revealed. Officials also began to test other squirrels in the area. Also under review are fleas, which could be used to transmit the disease.
In a public statement, L.A. County health officer Dr. Jonathan Fielding said, “Plague is a bacterial infection that can be transmitted to humans through the bites of infected fleas, which is why we close affected campgrounds and recreational areas as a precaution while preventive measures are taken to control the flea population.”
The plagued-infected squirrels were hit with Yersinia pestis, a microscopic bug that killed 60 percent of the European population between 1348 and 1420.
Yersinia pestis is rare, and,according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only seven human cases are reported in the United States each year. The disease can cause serious illness or death if left untreated; however, it is curable with a round of antibiotics.
Only four people have been infected with the plague in Los Angeles County since 1984.
On the CDC website, the agency writes:
“The earlier a patient seeks medical care and receives treatment that is appropriate for plague, the better their chances are of a full recovery.”
Anyone who was camping at the park is encouraged to report wild animals and dead squirrels. Park officials would also like to know of any squirrel burrows campers may have discovered.
To help protect against the potential of contracting the plague, officials are asking campers and residents in the area to wear DEET-containing insect repellent to help ward off mosquitoes and other potential plague carrying bugs.
Anyone seeking more information is encourage to call (626) 430-5450.
Would you still be willing to camp in an area offers a habitat for plague-infected squirrels?