The Los Alamos Campground, located in the Angeles National Forest, has been closed after a ground squirrel found there tested positive for the plague. Let me say that again, it tested positive for the plague!
The park was officially shut down on Saturday and will remain closed for at least ten days. During that time, officials will dust the squirrel burrows in the area for fleas in an attempt to prevent the spread of the disease. The plague spreads when infected rodents are bitten by fleas, who then go on to bite humans, passing along a bacteria that can bring on a severe fever, the chills, and a blood infection. In rare occasions, it can also lead to the pneumonic plague and possibly even death.
One form of the plague is the bubonic variety that spread across Europe in the 14th century, killing in excess of 25 million people.
But health officials have been quick to point out that there have been four cases of plague in Los Angeles County since 1984, and none of those were fatal. But just to be sure, they recommend visitors to the Angeles National Forest avoid squirrels and chipmunks while visiting the park, and wear insect repellent, preferably with DEET, to keep the fleas away.
When we consider the dangers of heading out into the wilderness to go camping, we usually think of bears or possibly exposure to weather conditions. I don’t think I’ve even once worried about the plague. Crazy!
[Photo credit: Benefactor123 via WikiCommons]