California Confirms First Case of Plague in Five years

Health officials believe patient contracted from flea

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California health officials have reported that a resident of South Lake Tahoe has tested positive for plague, marking the first such case in the state in half a decade.

The individual is recovering at home.

It’s believed that the person was infected by a flea while walking their dog, El Dorado County’s Health and Human Services Agency said in a statement. The individual is being treated by medical professionals but did not require hospitalization. An investigation into the matter is still ongoing.

The uncommon but potentially lethal bacterial disease is usually transmitted by fleas found on infected squirrels and other rodents in the wild. Plague can be treated with antibiotics if detected at an early stage.

The state has gone for several years without a confirmed case of plague. The last instance, in 2015, involved two people who contracted the disease at Yosemite National Park. Both individuals made a full recovery.

Health officials conduct regular testing on wildlife to monitor the virulence of the disease. From 2016 to 2019, El Dorado County found 20 rodents with evidence of exposure to plague bacterium. Most of the animals were from the South Lake Tahoe area.

The county reminded residents of safety precautions in order to avoid possible infection. The Department of Health and Human Services urged against feeding squirrels and stressed that it was dangerous to touch sick, injured, or dead rodents. They also suggested protecting pets with flea control products.

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