Plague detected in California squirrel, campgrounds close

by Reuters
Thursday, 25 July 2013 15:26 GMT

By Karen Brooks

July 25 (Reuters) - A ground squirrel found in a LosAngeles-area campground has tested positive for plague, causingauthorities to shut down part of the Angeles National Forest forat least a week, according to a public health advisory.

Squirrel burrows will be dusted for fleas, which carry thebacteria that causes the disease known as "the Black Death,"authorities said, while more ground squirrels in the area willbe tested before campers are allowed back.

It was the sixth squirrel since 1995 to test positive forplague in Southern California's San Gabriel Mountains, includingone in 2010, according to the advisory issued on Wednesday.

The most recent infected squirrel was trapped on July 16during routine checks in the park and confirmed to carry thedisease on July 23, according to the advisory. Part of theAngeles National Forest was shut down beginning on Wednesdayafternoon.

The plague was dubbed the Black Death in the Middle Ages,when it was blamed for the deaths of around 25 millionEuropeans.

It is treated with antibiotics and only an average of sevencases a year are reported in the United States, according to theCenters for Disease Control. Virtually all the U.S. cases havebeen in the western states.

Last year, an Oregon man survived a bout with plague, one ofthree reported in that state since the mid-1990s, none of whichwere fatal. Los Angeles County has only seen four cases since1987, and none were fatal, according to the advisory. (Reporting by Karen Brooks in Austin, Texas; Editing by DavidGregorio)

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