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Ground Squirrel in California Tests Positive for Plague, Forces Closure of Campgrounds in Los Angeles

A ground squirrel in Florida was infected with the bacteria that causes the plague.
aehack/Allan Hack, Flickr

A dead squirrel found in Los Angeles County tested positive for bubonic plague, forcing the closure of all nearby campgrounds.

Squirrel burrows are being dusted for fleas in the affected Table Mountain Campgrounds in the Angeles National Forest, which includes Broken Blade, Twisted Arrow and Pima Loops. The campsites have been closed and other squirrels in the area will be tested before the campgrounds can be reopened to the public.

According to the Los Angeles County Public Health Department, the plague was most recently discovered in a ground squirrel in the Los Alamos Campgrounds in 2010. The Public Health News bulletin released regarding this latest find includes the following statement:

Transmission of plague through flea bites causes bubonic plague, with symptoms including enlargement of lymph glands (buboes) near the flea bite and rapid onset of fever and chills. Untreated bubonic plague can progress to infection of the blood, or rarely, the lungs, causing pneumonic plague. All forms of the disease can be fatal if not treated; however, most patients respond well to antibiotic therapy.

“The Plague,” or “Black Death,” killed more than 75 million people in Europe during the latter part of the Middle Ages. Later epidemics were reported, but none apparently had as devastating an effect as that which occurred during the 14th century.

Today, antibiotics exist that are usually effective in treating bubonic plague. Without treatment, however, those infected can die. Symptoms of infection include chills, fever and  acral gangrene, among others.

Anyone who finds a dead squirrel in recreational areas of Los Angeles should call the health department at (626) 430.5450.

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