A South Lake Tahoe resident is the first person in California to test positive for plague in over five years, El Dorado County officials announced Monday.
Officials with the California Department of Public Health say the individual is under medical care while recovering at home. They believe the person, who is an avid walker, may have been bitten by an infected flea while walking their dog along the Truckee River corridor north of the U.S. Highway 50 or the Tahoe Keys area in South Lake Tahoe, according to the Sierra Sun.
South Lake Tahoe resident tests positive for plague https://t.co/2yyeUJopfJ
— Sierra Sun (@SierraSunNews) August 17, 2020
An official health investigation is now underway.
“Plague is naturally present in many parts of California, including higher elevation areas of El Dorado County,” Dr. Nancy Williams, the county’s Public Health Officer, said in a press release. “It’s important that individuals take precautions for themselves and their pets when outdoors, especially while walking, hiking, or camping in areas where wild rodents are present. Human cases of plague are extremely rare but can be very serious.”
There are several areas in South Lake Tahoe that have signs posted to advise the public of the presence of plague and ways to prevent exposure, according to the Tahoe Daily Tribune.
“Plague is an ancient disease which has caused epidemics of illness and the deaths of millions of people throughout history. During the “Black Death” of the 14th century, an estimated one-third of the population of Europe died from plague. Today, plague is rare among humans but is found each year among squirrels, chipmunks, and other rodents in California and the southwestern U.S. People can be infected with plague bacteria if they are bitten by a flea from an infected rodent or have close contact with an infected animal. Most people with plague develop fever and swollen lymph nodes. Plague is treatable with antibiotics, but can progress to severe and sometimes fatal illness if diagnosis and treatment are delayed. People visiting, hiking, camping, or living in areas where plague occurs should avoid contact with wild rodents and their fleas. Domestic cats are also susceptible to plague and can pass the infection to their owners.” — California Department of Public Health.
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 allow your pets to play with or pick up 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.
— Tahoe Daily Tribune (@TahoeDailyTrib) August 17, 2020