Yosemite Plague Outbreak Leads To Campground Closings

Some campgrounds are closed in Yosemite National Park in California, after a young girl became infected with the plague. 

Park officials shut down the Tuolumne Meadows Campground this week, from Monday until at least noon Friday, while they spray for fleas in rodent dens that could be plague-carriers. Last week, the Crane Flat Campground was closed for similar reasons.

The young girl is believed to have been infected with the plague at the Crane Flat Campground, and is reportedly recovering from the illness. Two dead squirrels were also found in the park that tested positive for the plague.

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The plague is typically transmitted from infected rodents to humans by fleas. It is extremely rare, and health experts say medical technology has made the plague a fairly low risk to humans if they receive proper treatment.

“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,” California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Director Dr. Karen Smith said in an August 14 press release. “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.”

The park put out a list of ways to avoid contracting the human plague, including:

  • Never feeding or touching squirrels, chipmunks or other rodents.
  • Not walking near rodent burrows
  • Wearing long pants tucked into socks or boots to reduce flea exposure
  • Spraying insect repellent containing DEET onto socks and pant cuffs
  • Keeping wild rodents out of homes, trailers, outhouses and away from pets

This latest outbreak involving infected rodents comes about three years after the park saw an outbreak of hantavirus during the summer of 2012, which was linked to the ability of rodents to infiltrate the “Signature” cabins of Curry Village. Those cabins were dismantled.

A number of hantavirus lawsuits were filed against national park system. All of the complaints were centralized in the Northern District of California for pretrial proceedings in June 2014.


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