As if dealing with a worldwide pandemic for more than a year hasn’t been enough, South Lake Tahoe officials are now dealing with the plague.
Several areas along the south shore of the lake resort will be closed for the rest of the week after some chipmunks tested positive for the plague. The positive tests were found in chipmunks with no human contact, El Dorado County spokesperson Carla Hass told the Tahoe Daily Tribune.
The Taylor Creek Visitor Center, Kiva Beach, and their associated parking areas will be closed through Friday to allow for vector control treatments, officials said. The Tallac Site and Kiva picnic parking area will remain open.
Health officials said plague is naturally present in some areas of California and other isolated regions of the country. One person contracted plague in California last year, but it had been 5 years before that since the last case.
Despite the rarity of plague, health officials are sounding the alarm since this is the busiest time of year for outdoor activities in the Lake Tahoe region.
Plague is an infectious bacterial disease spread by rodents — such as squirrels and chipmunks — and their fleas. People and pets can become infected through close contact or the bite of an infected flea.
Officials said hikers, campers, and those taking part in outdoor activities should keep their distance from wild rodents, and pets should be kept away from them.
According to the California Department of Public Health, people who get infected with the plague show symptoms about 2 weeks after exposure. Symptoms include fever, nausea, and swollen lymph nodes, and it can become severe or even fatal if treatment and antibiotics are delayed.
While the number of people catching the plague is rare, a 10-year-old Colorado boy died last month from complications linked to the plague.“Awareness and precautions can help prevent the disease in people,” Jennifer House, an epidemiologist and public health veterinarian in Colorado, said in a statement. “While it’s rare for people to contract plague, we want to make sure everyone knows the symptoms. The disease is treatable if caught early.”