Dead South Tahoe squirrel tests positive for plague |

Dead South Tahoe squirrel tests positive for plague

Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)
Getty Images/iStockphoto | iStockphoto

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — El Dorado County health officials confirmed Friday, Sept. 4, that a dead ground squirrel tested positive for plague.

California state public health officials found the squirrel at the Kiva picnic area adjacent to the Tallac Historic Site near Camp Richardson on Aug. 17.

Test results were confirmed on Wednesday, Sept. 2. Health officials haven’t received reports of any human contact with the dead squirrel.

Warning signs have been posted in the affected area and individuals are advised to report any dead or sick rodents.

Plague is an infectious bacterial disease spread by squirrels, chipmunks and other wild rodents and their fleas. People can get plague when they are bitten by an infected flea or through close contact with an infected animal. Plague can be prevented by avoiding contact with wild rodents and areas where fleas are noted, and by keeping pets away from rodent burrows.

Symptoms of plague usually show up 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.

California Department of Public Health routinely monitors rodent populations for plague activity in California and closely coordinates with county health officials. Last year in El Dorado County, two live rodents tested positive for plague antibodies, and in 2013 three similarly tested positive. There were no reports of illness to people. So far in 2015, two human cases of plague have been reported with exposure in California. Both people were treated and recovered. These were the first reported human cases in the state since 2006.

State and local health officials will continue to monitor plague-prone areas. To report a sick or dead rodent or for questions about plague, contact El Dorado County Environmental Management at 530-573-3450.

Some tips to avoid plague include:

Don’t feed squirrels, chipmunks or other wild rodents.

Never touch a dead, sick or injured rodent.

Avoid sleeping or camping near animal burrows.

Look for posted warning signs.

Wear long pants tucked into boot tops and spray insect repellent containing DEET on socks and pant cuffs to reduce exposure to fleas.

• Leave pets home if possible; otherwise keep pets on a leash if heading to a suspected area. Do not allow pets to approach sick or dead rodents or explore rodent burrows. Protect pets with flea control products.

• Cats can pose a higher risk of plague transmission to humans when they have contact with infected rodents. Keep cats away from rodents. Consult a veterinarian if your cat becomes sick after being in contact with rodents.

• If you get sick after being in an area where plague is known to occur, consult a physician and tell them you may have been exposed to plague.

For more information about plague, visit the CDPH website at:

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