Plague Squirrels: California Campground Shut DownBy: Amanda Crum - July 26, 2013
A squirrel that tested positive for the plague at Table Mountain Campgrounds has initiated the closing of the park for at least a week while authorities conduct further tests and do a sweep for infected fleas.
Though the plague was thought to have been wiped out after killing around 60% of the European population in the Middle Ages, it’s still hanging around and is carried by fleas that feed on the blood of infected rodents…including squirrels. The campgrounds are located in Los Angeles, and the County of L.A. Public Health Department issued a statement about the incident, saying the Broken Blade, Twisted Arrow, and Pima Loops of the Table Mountain Campgrounds will be closed until further notice.
“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,” said Jonathan E. Fielding, M.D., M.P.H., Director of Public Health and Health Officer. “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.”
Symptoms of the plague include swelling of the lymph nodes near the flea bite and rapid onset of fever and chills, but can be cured fairly easily with antibiotics. However, if left too long, it can still be fatal. Local officials recommend the use of DEET to repel fleas but warn that it is not safe for use on animals.