TAHOE/TRUCKEE — With the upcoming Memorial Day holiday heralding the unofficial beginning of the summer season at Lake Tahoe, regional health officials are asking residents and visitors to be aware of the potential risk of rodent-borne disease.
According to the Placer Mosquito and Vector Control District, rodent populations are routinely monitored for plague activity in California. Last September and October, chipmunks and squirrels in Nevada, Placer and El Dorado counties tested positive for the disease. Because plague cycles between periods of low and high activity, it is possible the increased activity observed last fall will continue into 2013.
“Visitors to area picnic spots and campgrounds and area residents should take precautionary measures to protect themselves from plague, a disease transmitted by infected fleas,” said Joel Buettner, general manager of the Placer Mosquito and Vector Control District, in a Thursday statement. “Avoiding contact with wild rodents and their fleas can greatly reduce the risk of becoming infected with plague.”
Wild rodents that can carry plague include ground squirrels, chipmunks, woodrats, mice, and marmots, according to the district.
People may be exposed to plague through the bite of an infected flea, handling an infected rodent or exposure to an infected pet (especially a sick cat), according to the district.
Early symptoms include high fever, chills, nausea, weakness and swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpit or groin. Individuals who develop these symptoms within two weeks of possible exposure should seek immediate medical attention and inform their health care provider that they have been in a plague-endemic area. Plague is curable in its early stages, but may be fatal if not treated early.
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