California’s 1st case of plague in 5 years confirmed in South Lake Tahoe

California

Health officials have confirmed a case of plague in South Lake Tahoe — the first in California in five years.

El Dorado County officials said Monday the California Department of Public Health notified them of the positive test of a local resident who is under medical care while recovering at home.

Health officials believe the South Tahoe resident may have been bitten by an infected flea while walking a dog along the Truckee River corridor or in the Tahoe Keys area on Tahoe’s south shore.

Between 2016 and 2019, a total of 20 rodents had evidence of exposure to plague in El Dorado County, officials said. The animals, which included chipmunks, were found in the South Lake Tahoe area.

The last confirmed cases of plague in the Golden State was back in 2015, when two people — including a child from Los Angeles County — contracted the bacteria at Yosemite National Park.

Both patients recovered after receiving treatment.

Prior to that, there had not been any diagnosed cases of plague in humans in the Golden State in nearly a decade.

The disease can be found around the state, except the southeastern desert region and the San Joaquin Valley, according to the California Department of Public Health.

Plague is most common in the foothills, plateaus, mountains, and coast. It is absent
from the southeastern desert region and the San Joaquin Valley.

The rare but potentially deadly bacterial disease is most often transmitted by fleas that have acquired it from infected squirrels, chipmunks and other wild rodents. If caught early, plague can be treated with antibiotics.

Symptoms include fever, nausea, weakness and swollen lymph nodes, and typically show up within two weeks of exposure to the bacteria.

Officials recommend a number of preventative measures to avoid exposure, such as: not feeding squirrels, chipmunks or other wild rodents; never touching sick or dead rodents; not allowing pets to play with or pick up sick, injured or dead rodents; and leaving pets at home, if possible.

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