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Published On: Thu, Jul 25th, 2013

Plague infected squirrel prompts closure of three Angeles National Forest campgrounds

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and U.S. Forestry Service officials have closed the Broken Blade, Twisted Arrow, and Pima Loops of the Table Mountain Campgrounds in the Angeles National Forest after tests confirmed that one ground squirrel trapped on July 16, 2013 during routine surveillance activities tested positive on July 23, 2013 for plague., according to a health advisory Wednesday.

Credits:   J. Delavan/ U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Credits: J. Delavan/ U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The campgrounds are expected to be closed for a week while the squirrel burrows in the area will be dusted for fleas and further testing of squirrels is performed.

“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.”

Health officials advise individuals visiting recreational areas near the Broken Blade, Twisted Arrow, and Pima Loops of the Table Mountain Campgrounds need to take certain precautions to avoid contact with wild animals that could be carrying plague- positive fleas.

Visitors to recreational areas should not feed wild animals, not leave edible trash out where wild animals can get to it, avoid camping or picnicking in the immediate vicinity of ground squirrel burrows, and should avoid taking pets into areas where they could be exposed to fleas. If you must take your pet into areas with fleas, please ensure your pet has appropriate flea control and vaccinations, as recommended by a veterinarian.

Plague is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium,Yersinia pestis. It is found in animals throughout the world, most commonly rats, but other rodents like ground squirrels, prairie dogs, chipmunks, rabbits and voles. Fleas typically serve as the vector of plague. Human cases have been linked to the domestic cats and dogs that brought infected fleas into the house.

Bubonic plague is the most common form of plague. In this form, the bacteria typically enter the body through the bite of an infected flea or rodent. Here the bacteria infect the lymphatic system. After a few days to week, the person will experience fever, chills, weakness, and swollen lymph glands. These are called buboes. Untreated bubonic plague is fatal about half the time.

Yersinia pestis is treatable with antibiotics if started early enough.

Members of the public who see dead ground squirrels in recreational areas, or who want more information about precautions should contact the LA County Department of Public Health, Vector Management Program at (626) 430-5450.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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