Increased plague risk at Lake Tahoe’s Fallen Leaf Campground; area to close briefly for pesticide treatments |

Increased plague risk at Lake Tahoe’s Fallen Leaf Campground; area to close briefly for pesticide treatments

Staff report
A flea taken from a yellow-pine chipmunk at Fallen Leaf Campground during routine testing in May tested positive for bubonic plague. The infectious agent is naturally occuring throughout the Sierra Nevada.
Courtesy / Lisa Herron |

Tips to prevent plague include the following:

• Do not feed squirrels, chipmunks or other wild rodents.

• Never touch sick, injured or dead rodents.

• Do not camp, sleep or rest near animal burrows or areas where dead rodents are observed.

• Look for and heed 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. Do not allow pets to approach sick or dead rodents or explore rodent burrows. Protect pets with flea control products.

• Pet cats are highly susceptible to plague and can pose a direct threat to humans. 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.

Source: El Dorado County Health Department

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — As a public safety precaution, the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, under direction from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), will temporarily close Fallen Leaf Campground next week to allow county and state public health and vector control officials to conduct pesticide treatments to minimize potential future plague risk, weather permitting. There is minimal risk to the public at this time.

The gate to Fallen Leaf Campground will close Monday, June 27, at 7 p.m., however campers must check out by noon. The gate will likely reopen Friday morning, July 1. Officials will dust all rodent burrows with a pesticide to reduce the number of fleas that can carry plague. The pesticide to be used, DeltaDust, is a pyrethroid that has minimal effects to people or pets with direct contact. Pyrethroids are a man-made version of pyrethrins, which are natural insecticides made from chrysanthemum flowers.

El Dorado County health officials have been notified by the CDPH of an increased risk of plague in the Fallen Leaf Campground area. Test results confirmed on June 20 revealed that four out of 15 rodents tested positive for exposure to plague. CDPH recommends the temporary closure of the campground to provide pesticide treatment. The treatment will help decrease the potential transmission of plague to humans. Health officials are not aware of any human contact with infected rodents or fleas at the campground.

Earlier this month, a flea sample from a yellow-pine chipmunk collected from the southwest end of the campground tested positive for plague. El Dorado County officials issued a news release, and the Forest Service posted signs warning visitors that plague was detected, explaining the precautions to follow and encouraging campers to report any sick or dead rodents.

Plague is naturally present in many parts of California — including higher elevation areas of El Dorado County — and is spread by squirrels, chipmunks and other wild rodents and their fleas. People may get plague if bitten by an infected flea or through close contact with an infected rodent or pet. Plague can be prevented by avoiding contact with wild rodents, and by keeping pets away from rodent burrows. Risk of acquiring plague is very low when precautions are taken.

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. 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.

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, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For questions about camping in the Lake Tahoe area, contact the Forest Service at 530-543-2600, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.

For questions about plague surveillance activities, contact California Department of Public Health Office of Public Affairs at 916-440-7259.

For more information about plague, visit the CDPH website at

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