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Due to increased plague activity in the Tahoe Basin area last fall, El Dorado County health officials advise caution this summer. The California Department of Public Health routinely monitors rodent populations for plague activity in California. Last September and October, a surveillance effort identified three chipmunks as positive for plague in the South Lake Tahoe area; two were found near the U.S. Forest Service Taylor Creek Visitor Center and one was found near the Tallac Historic Site. There were no reports of illness to people. Signs were posted in the areas to alert the public, and individuals were advised to report dead or sick rodents. Signs will continue to be posted throughout this year to help advise the public.
According to El Dorado County Public Health Officer, Dr. Alicia Paris-Pombo, “Plague is naturally present in many parts of California, including higher elevation (mountainous areas) of El Dorado County, so we all need to be cautious around animals that can carry it.”
Plague is an infectious bacterial disease that is spread by squirrels, chipmunks and other wild rodents and their fleas. People can become infected through close contact with infected animals or the bite of an infected flea. Plague can be prevented by avoiding contact with these rodents and their fleas, and by keeping pets away from rodents and their burrows. Human cases of plague are rare. Symptoms of plague usually occur within two weeks of exposure to an infected animal or flea, and include fever, nausea, weakness and swollen lymph nodes. Plague can be effectively treated with antibiotics if detected early.
Tips to prevent plague include the following:
State and local health officials will continue to monitor plague-prone areas. To report a sick or dead rodent or for questions about plague, please contact El Dorado County Environmental Management at (530) 573-3450. Additional information about plague can be found at the California Department of Public Health’s website at www.cdph.ca.gov/HealthInfo/discond/Pages/Plague.aspx ###