Major US campgrounds closed due to Bubonic Plague infected Squirrel

Squirrel infected with the BUBONIC PLAGUE closes major US campgrounds

This is the third positive test in the area since 2007
Campgrounds have been closed for at least seven days
US plague cases number in the single digits annually

PUBLISHED: 14:57, 26 July 2013 | UPDATED: 19:43, 26 July 2013

A plague-infected squirrel has forced the closure of numerous Los Angeles campgrounds.

Routine testing of a squirrel trapped July 16 revealed this week that it had fleas carrying the bubonic plague, forcing the closure of a handful of campgrounds in Los Angeles, according to officials.

Known as the Black Death, the disease killed millions across Europe during the Middle Ages. This is the third such case in the past six years.

Of the four reported cases in Los Angeles since 1984, none have been fatal after being treated with antibiotics.

Officials have closed Broken Blade, Twisted Arrow, and Pima Loops of the Table Mountain Campgrounds in the Angeles National Forest for at least seven days while flea control measures are enacted, according to a public notice. Further testing of squirrels will be done before the campgrounds are reopened.

‘We found [a squirrel] that had plague, the blood showed exposure to plague and it had something like 12 fleas on it,’ Dr. Jonathan Fielding, Los Angeles County Director of Public Health and Health Officer, told NBC Los Angeles.

A plague-infected squirrel has been found in California

Plague is somewhat common among the ground squirrel population in the surrounding San Gabriel Mountains, according to health officials, with previous positive tests having happened in 2010 and 2007, as well as 1996 and 1995.

‘We want to advise everybody to make sure they don’t bring their pets, and, if possible – I know it’s important for the kids to be able to go camping – but to be sure to bring the proper insect repellent,’ Joe Kelso told the station.

Bubonic plague is transferred to humans through bites from infected fleas, with symptoms including enlarged lymph glands near the flea bites accompanied almost immediately by fever and chills. Untreated, the plague can infect the blood and even the lungs, sometimes resulting in pneumonic plague. This is usually remedied with a round of antibiotic treatment, officials said.

If it gets through the blood stream and winds up [in] your respiratory tract… that’s the kind we had in the fifteenth century,’ Fielding told the station.

Officials also recommend using insect repellents to ward off fleas, especially repellents containing DEET – which are not safe for pets.

The bubonic plague has been blamed for the deaths of as many as 100 million people during the 1300s. Though plague outbreaks aren’t as common in recent times, a Chinese man from Sichuan Province died in 2012 from the disease after eating a dead marmot. Cases of the once-deadly infection number in the single digits annually in the US and are confined to the western half of the country.

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