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Yosemite National Park campground to be closed while officials try to wipe out plague

Yosemite National Park campground to be closed while officials try to wipe out plague
Health officials will close a campground at Yosemite National Park and spray for fleas after a park visitor contracted the plague. (California Department of Public Health)

A campground at Yosemite National Park will be closed starting at noon Monday for flea treatment after two plague-infected squirrels were found there.

The Tuolumne Meadows Campground is the second campsite to close in two weeks since a child contracted the plague while visiting the park with family members in mid-July.

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Rodent burrows at the campground will be dusted with a flea insecticide to kill any remnants of the plague since it was last discovered in two dead golden-mantled ground squirrels, said Dr. Vicki Kramer, chief of the California Department of Public Health's Vector Borne Disease Section.

The campground will be closed until noon Friday.

Lab tests found the disease had infected the animals' tissue, she said.
The campground is about 40 miles west of Crane Flat Campground, where the child was camping with family and became ill.

The child contracted the disease during a family trip to Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite's Crane Flat Campground.

The child, who lives in Los Angeles County, has recovered.

Health officials found evidence of the plague during an environmental survey of the Crane Flat Campground. The campground was closed for four days and reopened Friday.

The infectious disease was found in a California ground squirrel and in fleas. The squirrel survived unlike the other two squirrels.

Several other squirrels and chipmunks were trapped and combed for fleas during the survey. The fleas tested positive for plague.

"Plague is endemic," Kramer said. "It's been in California since the 1900s."

Although they found plague at the campgrounds, Kramer said "the risk of exposure to people is very low."

The plague, she said, is treatable with antibiotics unlike the black plague during the Middle Ages. But she said it's important to know the symptoms.

The infectious disease is carried by squirrels, chipmunks and other rodents via fleas. When an infected rodent becomes sick and dies, its fleas can carry the disease to other animals and humans.

A person infected with the disease will experience high fever, chills, nausea, weakness and swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpit or groin. The plague can be fatal if left untreated.

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In California, there have been 42 human cases of plague since 1970. Nine were fatal.

For breaking news in California, follow @VeronicaRochaLA.

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