by Carlos E. Castañeda

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK (CBS SF) — Two dead squirrels at a campground in Yosemite National Park were found to have been killed by plague, leading park officials to close it for treatment.

The dead squirrels were found recently at Tuolumne Meadows Campground according to the park website.

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The campground will be closed from August 17 to the 24th for treament with the insecticide deltamethrin. Plague is carried by the fleas of infected rodents and can be spread to humans through the bite of an infected flea, among other transmissions.

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Last week, it was revealed a child who had camped at Yosemite’s Crane Flat campground in July had contracted plague, the first human case of plague in the state since 2006.

Crane Flat campground re-opened Friday after also being closed for four days to allow for rodent burrows to be treated for fleas.

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Plague has killed millions throughout history, but it is rare in modern times and can be easily treated with antibiotics. Early symptoms include high fever, chills, nausea, weakness and swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpit or groin.

Since 1970, 42 people have contracted plague in California. Nine of those people died.

The California Department of Health said despite the confirmation of plague at the campgrounds, the risk to human health remains low and action to treat the campgrounds was taken out of an abundance of caution.

The health department offered the following tips for the public to avoid exposure to the plague:

  • Never feed squirrels, chipmunks or other rodents and never touch sick or dead rodents.
  • Avoid walking or camping near rodent burrows.
  • Wear long pants tucked into socks or boot tops to reduce exposure to fleas.
  • Spray insect repellent containing DEET on socks and pant cuffs to reduce exposure to fleas.
  • Keep wild rodents out of homes, trailers, and outbuildings and away from pets.


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Carlos E. Castañeda is Senior Editor, News & Social Media for CBS San Francisco and a San Francisco native. You can follow him on Twitter or send him an email.