Chipmunks test positive for Bubonic plague near Lake Tahoe

Humans can be infected through close contact with feral rodents

Clara Hill
Thursday 05 August 2021 15:58
<p>Chipmunks found at California’s Lake Tahoe have been found to be carriers of the plague.</p>

Chipmunks found at California’s Lake Tahoe have been found to be carriers of the plague.

A beach on Lake Tahoe has been closed after local chipmunks tested positive for the plague, according to reports.

El Dorado County officials said the Taylor Creek Visitor Center on Lake Tahoe’s Kiva Beach would be closed temporarily following chipmunks were found to have the plague.

Carla Hass, a spokesperson for local authorities, said the animals had not come into contact with any humans, according to the Tahoe Daily Tribune.

They hope their efforts to rid the area of the disease will be carried out by 5 August, and that the area will be open again by the weekend. Some areas will stay open, such as the Tallac Site and the Kiva picnic parking lot.

The plague is a bacterial infection that is spread by feral rodents, such as chipmunks and rats, via their fleas. Humans can be infected through close contact with these animals.

Symptoms show after two weeks. These range from fever, headache, chills, and weakness and swollen lymph nodes. There are three kinds of plague; septicemic, pneumonic and bubonic, which makes up 80 per cent of the US cases.

To prevent contracting it, officials recommend using repellant and vaccinating your pets. Previously, public health officials have advised avoiding rodents.

“It’s important that individuals take precautions for themselves and their pets when outdoors, especially while walking, hiking or camping in areas where wild rodents are present,” Dr Nancy Williams, the local public health officer, said in a statement in 2020 following a man being diagnosed with the disease. “Human cases of plague are extremely rare but can be very serious.”

The resident of Lake Tahoe was the first person to be found to have the disease in five years in the state. Between 2016 to 2019, 20 local animals were found to be in contact with the disease, according to the AP.

Before this, the last recorded diagnosis of the plague in California were two people believed to have contracted it after being bitten by a flea in Yosemite National Park. Last month, a 10-year-old girl died after contracting the disease in Colorado, but experts were unsure where and how she contracted it.

“Medical and health professionals are trying to track down where she contracted the disease,” A local public health official from La Plata County told theThe Durango Herald. “At this time, that is still unknown.”

According to the CDC, most of the cases of the plague happen in rural areas in the western region of the US, in states such as Oregon, Colorado and California and on average, there are seven cases a year. The last epidemic was in Los Angeles between 1924 and 1925.

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