Plague spreads in Truckee

Christina Nelson

Donner Memorial State Park has closed for the season and a second campground in Truckee has voluntarily closed after rodents tested positive for bubonic plague.

The state park voluntarily closed for the season on Aug. 4 after a chipmunk and a rodent on the park’s borders tested positive for plague.

The park’s campgrounds and day-use area temporarily closed two weeks ago when dead rodents were found in the park.

Because of continuing concerns by health officials, the park decided to close for good.

Park Superintendent Marilyn Murphy said the park would have closed in a few weeks anyway.

“This decision was reaffirmed today by the plague-positive results of a chipmunk collected from the park last week in the day-use area,” Pat Ditrovati of Nevada County environmental health said Friday.

Tahoe Donner Associations’ Alder Creek Campground received news that a chipmunk submitted for testing came back plague-positive a week ago and voluntarily closed, making it the second campground in the Truckee area to close due to the plague.

The county health department also received notice Friday that a rodent on Ski Slope in Tahoe Donner tested positive for the plague.

“That area and Donner Lake have been pretty hot for plague,” Ditrovati said about the history of plague in the area.

Despite the recent flare-up of the disease, health officials emphasize that it is rarely transmitted to humans if precautions are taken. Also, plague is treatable with antibiotics.

“Our department wants to emphasize that people can safely visit Truckee without health consequences or significant concerns,” Ditrovati said. “However, if venturing out into natural areas it is recommended that standard precautions… be followed.”

State officials will implement a treatment program for the plague.

“Because plague is transmitted by fleas, rodents and their burrows will be dusted with flea insecticide to halt the spread of the disease,” said Steve Capps of the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

Campgrounds pose a greater health risk to humans because rodents tend to cluster near them to find leftover food. The artificial increase in the rodent population facilitates the spread of the disease.

Plague is constantly present in Eastern Nevada County, but residents need to be aware of flare-ups of the disease.

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