Child contracts plague while camping at Yosemite National Park

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Friday, August 7, 2015
Child contracts plague while camping at Yosemite National Park
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Human cases of plague are rare but it is pandemic among wild life in the west, and even more common in higher elevations, such as Yosemite.

FRESNO, Calif. -- The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) said they are conducting an environment evaluation in Yosemite National Park and the Stanislaus National Forest after a child from Los Angeles became ill with the human plague.

The CDPH said the child went camping with her family at the Crane Flat Campground in Yosemite in mid-July. They said the child is recovering and no other members of the camping party have reported symptoms.

The CDPH said they are still working to find the source of the child's infection.

Plague is an infectious bacterial disease that is carried by squirrels, chipmunks and other wild rodents and their fleas. When an infected rodent becomes sick and dies, its fleas can carry the infection to other warm-blooded animals or humans. Early symptoms of plague include high fever, chills, nausea, weakness and swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpit or groin. People who develop these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention and notify their health care provider that they have been camping or out in the wilderness and have been exposed to rodents and fleas. Plague is treatable in its early stages with prompt diagnosis and proper antibiotic treatment. If not treated, plague can be fatal.

Plague is not transmitted from human to human, unless a patient with plague also has a lung infection and is coughing. There have been no known cases of human-to-human infection in California since 1924.

"Human cases of plague are rare, with the last reported human infection in California occurring in 2006," CDPH Director and State Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith. "Although this is a rare disease, people should protect themselves from infection by avoiding any contact with wild rodents. Never feed squirrels, chipmunks, or other rodents in picnic or campground areas, and never touch sick or dead rodents. Protect your pets from fleas and keep them away from wild animals."