Squirrel Infected With Black Plague Closes LA Campground

Friday, 26 Jul 2013 10:29 AM

By Alexandra Ward

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A squirrel infected with plague has led Los Angeles health officials to close a popular campground on Wednesday. More specifically, the squirrel tested positive for the Black Death plague.

Three trails at the Table Mountain Campgrounds near Wrightwood in the Angeles National Forest were shut down after the body of a ground squirrel was found to contain the bacteria.

"We found one today that in fact had the plague," Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, the county's Director of Public Health, told NBC Los Angeles. "Blood [tests] showed exposure to plague and it had something like 12 fleas on it."

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The plague spreads from human to human through bites from infected fleas, and though the Black Death plague killed millions in the 14th and 15th centuries, it can be easily treated with antibiotics now.

"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," Fielding said.

The U.S. Forest Service plans to keep the campgrounds closed for seven days, and advises everyone to take the proper precautions in the meantime to avoid infection.

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"We want to advise everybody to make sure they don’t bring their pets [to the campgrounds]," Joe Kelso, who lives near the closed trails, told NBC Los Angeles. "And if possible, I know its important for the kids to come camping, but to be sure to bring the proper insect repellant."

A squirrel infected with the Black Death plague was found at the Los Alamos Campground in the Angeles National Forest in 2010. The campgrounds were also closed in that instance.

Related stories:

'Black Death' Dogs Cause Bubonic Plague Scare in New Mexico

Study: Medieval Plague May Be Extinct

Photo Turns Out Not to Be Jersey Devil, Just Hairless Squirrel  

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