Next time you see a squirrel approach your campsite or picnic table, looking for handouts of sunflower seeds or peanuts … run for your lives!
OK, perhaps that’s an exaggeration, but California state authorities are taking all precautions after one of the fuzzy, little critters tested positive for bubonic plague this week inside Angeles National Forest.
Yes, the Black Death. You know, “ring around the rosy; a pocketful of posies?”
“Plague is a bacterial infection that can be transmitted to humans through the bites of infected fleas, which is why we close affected campgrounds and recreational areas as a precaution while preventive measures are taken to control the flea population,” said Jonathan E. Fielding, the director of public health.
He also urged calm, saying four humans have contracted plague in LA County since 1984, and all have survived.
The squirrel in question tested positive during routine checks.
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To conduct further tests and take preventative measures, authorities closed Broken Blade, Twisted Arrow and Pima Loops of the Table Mountain Campgrounds in the Angeles National Forest.
Squirrels are no strangers to plague. Officials have found five plague-positive ground squirrels since 1995 in the San Gabriel Mountains, including the Los Alamos campgrounds, Stoneyvale Picnic Area and Vogel Flats campground.
Not so cute anymore, are they?
Transmission of plague through flea bites causes bubonic plague, with symptoms including enlargement of lymph glands near the flea bite and rapid onset of fever and chills.
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 treated; however, most patients respond well to antibiotics.
Now, simple bug repellent with DEET keeps you safe, and flea collars for dogs and cats protects ground-level, squirrel-chasing members of your families.
Between 1348 and 1350, the Black Death cut the United Kingdom’s population nearly in half, BBC says.
It didn’t stop killing people, although in much smaller numbers, until the end of the 17th Century.
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