Chipmunks at Lake Tahoe have tested positive for the plague – a disease which can be spread to humans.
The group of animals in California haven’t had any contact with humans, but parts of Lake Tahoe are being closed as a precaution.
It’s reported that areas of the lake’s southern shore will be closed off until at least Friday, August 6. Forest Service officials hope to reopen it fully at the weekend.
As well as parts of the lake being closed, the Taylor Creek Visitor Center, Kiva Beach and their parking areas will be off limits until Friday, The Tahoe Daily Tribune reports.
During the time these areas are closed, the US Forest Service will be conducting vector control treatments to the areas.
The plague is naturally present in some areas of California and, with this in mind, people hiking should avoid making contact with any animals, NBC News reports. It’s also advised people keep their pets away from wildlife.
Public Health Officer Dr. Nancy Williams said:
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.
It’s unreported as to how many animals tested positive this year, but a total of 20 ground squirrels or chipmunks around South Lake Tahoe were found to have been exposed to the plague between 2016 to 2019.
Chipmunks, their fleas, and other wild rodents are known for spreading the plague. Symptoms of the plague in humans include fever, nausea, weakness and swollen lymph nodes. Dogs will also present similar symptoms if they’ve contracted the bacterial disease.
Officials say symptoms will usually show up within two weeks of exposure. While it can be harmful for humans, if it’s caught early, it can be treated with antibiotics, NBC News reports.
Reports of the plague surfaced last year for the first time in five years – again at Lake Tahoe. It’s believed a person was bitten by a plague-infected flea while walking a dog along the Truckee River corridor or in the Tahoe Keys area on Tahoe’s south shore last August, according to AP News.
Prior to that, the last reported human case of the plague was in 2015. Two people were thought to have contracted it at Yosemite National Park, and both made a full recovery.
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