Second case of plague confirmed at Yosemite | News | DW | 19.08.2015
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Second case of plague confirmed at Yosemite

The second case of plague diagnosed in less than a month has been traced to Yosemite National Park in California. Park authorities have closed down a section of the park and urged caution.

California health officials announced late on Tuesday that a tourist from Georgia had fallen ill with a "presumptive positive case" of the disease after visiting Yosemite, Sierra National Forest, and the surrounding areas earlier this month.

The authorities shut down a part of the park, Tuolumne Meadows Campground, for several days as they try to apply anti-flea chemicals around rodent burrows after two squirrels were found dead of plague in the area. The infectious disease is carried by rodents such as squirrels and chipmunks and then spread by their fleas.

Tuesday's announcement follows one a similar from the beginning of August when the California Department of Health acknowledged that a child had been diagnosed with plague after camping with his family at Crane Flat Campground in July. That campground was reopened last week after park officials had it closed off for four days to treat it with insecticide.

Human risk of plague still low

While campers at Tuolumne Meadows had their reservations canceled and rodent "burrow holes" are being treated with insecticide, health officials emphasized that "although the presence of plague has been confirmed in wild rodents over the past two weeks at Crane Flat and Tuolumne Meadows campgrounds in Yosemite, the risk to human health remains low."

The park authorities warned visitors not to feed wildlife, to avoid setting up their campground near rodent dens, and always wear strong insect repellant to ward off fleas. Nine people have died of plague in California since 1970, where the disease is "rare" but "endemic" in the Sierra Nevada and surrounding foothills, according to Yosemite's website.

Plague can be cured if a patient is given antibiotics soon after infection, but is fatal when treatment is delayed. The tourist from Georgia, whose age and gender was not given, is being tested for Centers for Disease Control, while the child who contracted the disease in July is recovering in a hospital.

es/kms (Reuters, AP)

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