Plague Warnings For Rural Areas


Senior Member
Jun 30, 2004
LOS ANGELES Those visiting rural areas this summer should take precautions to avoid contracting bubonic plague, the state Department of Health warned Monday.

A Los Angeles woman was hospitalized in April after becoming infected with the potentially fatal bacterial disease. It was the first reported case in Los Angeles County since 1984.

Bubonic plague is spread by squirrels, chipmunks and other wild rodents and their fleas, according to Dr. Mark Horton, a state public health officer. When an infected rodent becomes sick and dies, its fleas carry the infection to other warm-blooded animals, including humans.

People can also be exposed through infected cats, which are highly susceptible to the disease.

"Individuals can greatly reduce their risk of becoming infected with plague by taking simple precautions, including avoiding contact with wild rodents," Horton said. "Do not feed rodents in picnic or campground areas and never handle sick or dead rodents."

Early symptoms of plague include high fever, chills, nausea, weakness and swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpit or groin. The disease is curable in its early stages with proper treatment, but may be fatal if left untreated.

Plague-infected animal are most likely to be found in California’s foothills, mountains and along the coast, while the desert and Central Valley regions are considered low-risk regions, Horton said.

So far this year, plague activity has been detected in animals in Inyo, Mariposa, Mono, Plumas and Sierra counties. Since 1970, there have been 42 human cases of the plague reported in California.

Those hiking or camping in plague-prone areas should:

- Avoid rodent burrows.
- Wear long pants tucked into boot tops to reduce exposure to fleas.
- Spray insect repellant containing DEET on socks and trouser cuffs.
- Keep wild rodents out of homes, trailers and away from pets.

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