Fleas test positive for bubonic plague at South Lake Tahoe, prompting warnings

Nation/world
The arboretum area is nestled in the trees between Camp Richardson and the Taylor Creek Visitor Center. (Tahoe Heritage Foundation/ U.S. Forest Service)

The arboretum area is nestled in the trees between Camp Richardson and the Taylor Creek Visitor Center. (Tahoe Heritage Foundation/ U.S. Forest Service)

After fleas in South Lake Tahoe tested positive for the bubonic plague, officials closed down several parking lots at popular beach and picnic areas for treatment.

Tallac Historic Site, the Kiva Beach picnic area and the Taylor Creek Visitor Center were temporarily closed Wednesday and were expected to reopen before Labor Day weekend, U.S. Forest Service officials said.

People visiting those areas during the holiday weekend were told to stay on trails and keep their pets on a short leash so they don’t get close to rodents, which can be infected with fleas. Dogs and cats can bring plague-infected fleas into homes, health officials said. 

The warnings come after El Dorado County officials in mid-August reported the state’s first human case of plague in five years.

That person is believed to have been bitten by an infected flea while walking a dog near the Truckee River corridor or in the Tahoe Keys area, health officials said.

Before that case, there were two people who tested positive for the plague after they were exposed to infected rodents or their fleas in Yosemite National Park in 2015. 

“Bubonic Plague is naturally occurring in many parts of California, including the Sierra Nevada, and can be transmitted through bites from infected fleas,” Forest Service officials said.

People can also get the plague from touching an infected rodent.

Symptoms usually show up within two weeks of exposure and include fever, nausea, weakness and swollen lymph nodes. When diagnosed early, the plague can be treated with antibiotics.

Anyone experiencing those symptoms while out in the affected areas should see a doctor, especially if there’s evidence of an insect bite, Forest Service officials said.

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