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Yosemite National Park Closes Campgrounds After Plague Case

Image: Yosemite Falls is seen in Yosemite National Park

Two Yosemite campgrounds are being treated with flea spray after a child caught plague. NPS photo by David Miyako

California’s Yosemite National Park has reopened one campground but is closing another to spray for fleas after a Los Angeles girl caught plague there.

The child is recovering, officials said.

The park’s Crane Flat Campground, closed for four nights while teams treated rodent burrows for fleas, was reopening Friday, the California health department said.

Tuolumne Meadows Campground in Yosemite will be closed from Monday to Friday next week for similar treatment after two dead squirrels were found to be carrying plague, the department said.

"Although this is a rare disease, and the current risk to humans is low, eliminating the fleas is the best way to protect the public from the disease," said Dr. Karen Smith, California’s chief medical officer.

"By eliminating the fleas, we reduce the risk of human exposure and break the cycle of plague in rodents at the sites. People can protect themselves from infection by avoiding any contact with wild rodents."

The risk of very low and the treatment’s being done "out of an abundance of caution," the department said.

Plague infections in people are very rare in the U.S., with an average of seven cases a year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. Plague is easy to treat with antibiotics if patients are diagnosed in time.

Earlier this month, Colorado officials said an unidentified adult died from plague. A 16-year-old Colorado boy died from plague in June after he developed an unusual and hard-to-treat septicemic infection. Two other Coloradans who caught plague this year were treated and recovered, including one whose dog is suspected of having carried the infection.

7-year-old plague victim heads home

In July, the New Mexico Department of Health said a 52-year-old woman who died probably had plague.

Officials say people should not feed squirrels or other rodents and should use DEET to protect against fleas as well as ticks, which don’t carry plague but which carry other diseases such as Lyme and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

Pets can carry plague, too. Last year,a pet dog in Colorado caught plague and doctors believe it infected at least four people. Colorado health officials say three cats have tested positive for plague this year, although they are not known to have infected any people.

Symptoms include a sudden fever, a severe headache, nausea and chills. It can feel like flu.

The bacterial infection caused several pandemics in the Middle Ages. The scientific name, Yersinia pestis, refers to the bacteria that causes the disease commonly known as plague but the word's often used to describe other epidemics.