Yosemite Squirrels Have Human Plague
An outbreak of human plague has closed several campgrounds at Yosemite National Park and infected one Los Angeles child. Source: roflzoo.com

Yes, it is 2015 and we are talking about a human plague outbreak at Yosemite.

The California Department of Public Health and Yosemite National Park are taking steps to eradicate a plague outbreak at the popular National Park. Public health officials became aware that Yosemite squirrels have human plague in mid-July after a child who had camped in Yosemite’s Crane Flat Campground contracted the potentially lethal infectious bacteria. The child is expected to make a full recovery after receiving medical treatment.

Plague is transmitted by squirrels, chipmunks and other wild rodents and their fleas. Even after the rodent dies from the disease the fleas can still carry the infection to other warm-blooded animals including humans. Last week park officials closed the Crane Flat Campground for four nights to treat rodent burrows in hopes of controlling plague-infected fleas.

Yosemite Squirrels Have Human Plague
Yosemite National Park posted signs this week warming of the outbreak of human plague at the park. Source: abc30.com
Yosemite Squirrels Have Human Plague
The popular Tuolumne Meadows Campground is the latest Yosemite site to close because of an outbreak of human plague. Source: npmaps.com

With evidence that the infection is not isolated to the Crane Flat Campground, the park will close the large Tuolumne Meadows Campground this week to attempt to stop the spread of the infected fleas and rodents. State Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith told reporters, “Although this is a rare disease, and the current risk to humans is low, eliminating the fleas is the best way to protect the public from the disease. By eliminating the fleas, we reduce the risk of human exposure and break the cycle of plague in rodents at the sites. People can protect themselves from infection by avoiding any contact with wild rodents.”

Yosemite Squirrels Have Human Plague
While this little guy can look cute and friendly, the Yosemite fleas that ride on this squirrel can carry dangerous bacteria that can be transmitted to humans. Source: blindbully.com

Given the ominous name of the “Black Death” in the 14th Century, human plague killed over 20 million people in Europe in just five years. Now the disease is easily treated with cheap and readily available antibiotics. The early symptoms of plague can include high fever, chills, nausea, weakness and swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpit or groin. Public health officials caution that anyone that develops these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention and notify their health care provider that they have been camping or out in the wilderness and have been exposed to rodents and fleas.

Don’t let plague squirrels be the boss of you – here are some steps you can take to limit your risk of human plague. Yes, human plague.

1. Never feed squirrels, chipmunks or other rodents and never touch sick or dead rodents.
2. Avoid walking or camping near rodent burrows.
3. Wear long pants tucked into socks or boot tops to reduce exposure to fleas.
4. Spray insect repellent containing DEET on socks and pant cuffs to reduce exposure to fleas.
5. Keep wild rodents out of homes, trailers, and outbuildings and away from pets.

Yosemite Squirrels Have Human Plague
Public health officials do not recommend the guitar eradication method depicted in this picture is. Source: gameofthrones.wikia.com
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