Plague infected rodents in the Sierra Nevada Mountains was not on my 2021 apocalypse BINGO card. How about yours?
I guess plain ol’ COVID wasn’t enough; we had to have different variants. And then THAT apparently wasn’t enough – Monkeypox, a highly contagious viral disease related to the deadly (but eradicated in 1980 – yay vaccines!) smallpox, was discovered in Texas earlier this month.
So, apparently not wanting to be left out, what’s been discovered in the South Lake Tahoe region?
Chipmunks positive for plague.
Based on positive plague tests (and planned vector control treatments), Kiva Beach, the Taylor Creek Visitor Center, and their respective parking areas are currently closed.
All of the affected areas are in California’s El Dorado County.
The plague was commonly known as the “Black Death” during the Middle Ages.
From the California Department of Public Health:
Plague is an infectious bacterial disease that can be spread by squirrels, chipmunks and other wild rodents and their fleas. People can become infected through close contact with infected animals or the bite of an infected flea. Plague can be prevented by avoiding contact with these rodents and their fleas, and by keeping pets away from rodents and their burrows. Human cases of plague are rare. Symptoms of plague usually occur within two weeks of exposure to an infected animal or flea, and include fever, nausea, weakness and swollen lymph nodes. Plague can be effectively treated with antibiotics if detected early.
According to El Dorado County’s former Public Health Officer, Dr. Alicia Paris-Pombo, “Plague is naturally present in many parts of California, including higher elevation (mountainous areas) of El Dorado County, so we all need to be cautious around animals that can carry it.”
CDPH routinely monitors rodent populations for plague activity in California.
A California resident tested positive for the plague in 2020 – it was the first time it had been diagnosed in the state in 5 years. In 2019, we also reported a couple that died of bubonic plague. However, they were not in California.
No humans are known to have caught the plague from these infected chipmunks since they were discovered.
The area is currently scheduled to reopen following the completion of the vector control treatments, hopefully in time for the upcoming weekend.
Feature Photo: Ann Longmore-Etheridge / flickr
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