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Campgrounds Shut Down After Squirrel Tested Positive for the Plague

Update Date: Jul 26, 2013 09:42 AM EDT

The Angeles National Forest in Los Angeles County, CA has closed down some of the campgrounds and evacuated the campers after officials found a plague-infected squirrel. The squirrel had been trapped as a part of the park's routine check ups. The plague, which is a dangerous and often fatal disease, has been the cause of several epidemics that killed huge portions of the global population. Even though the plague has not caused a major epidemic in recent years due to modern medicine, this new discovery has alarmed many.

Since the squirrel tested positive for the plague, the county and the U.S. Forestry Service have shut down the Broken Blade, Twisted Arrow and Pima Loops of the Table Mountain campgrounds within the forest. According to the officials, the discovery was made on Tuesday and the campgrounds were closed on the following day at one pm. It will remain closed for at least an entire week so that other squirrels can be tested. Officials will also dust the squirrels' burrows for any fleas.

"It is important for the public to know that there have only been four cases of human plague in Los Angels Country residents since 1984," the L.A. Public Health Director Jonathan Fielding said according to the LA Weekly.  "None of which were fatal."

The camp officials have warned campers to avoid wild animals in order to lower their chances of a potential infection. The officials have also reminded campers to avoid feeding any of the squirrels living in the forest. Since fleas are most likely the cause of the infection, the park's officials have also told pet owners to keep their dogs away from infected areas and to use insect repellant as a precaution.

"Transmission of plague through flea bites causes bubonic plague, with symptoms including enlargement of lymph glands near the flea bit and rapid onset of fever and chills," the county's Public Health stated. "Untreated bubonic plague can progress to infection of the blood, or rarely, the lungs, causing pneumonic plague. All forms of the disease can be fatal if not treat; however, most patients respond well to antibiotic therapy."

So far, the officials believe that none of the campers residing in these areas have been infected. 

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