Plague warning in effect for Tahoe Donner
Plague season is back. The fatal disease was found on rodents in the Martis Creek Campground area last week, which has since been closed.
Officials warn Tahoe-Donner residents to be especially cautious to protect their children and pets from the fleas on rodents which generally carry the disease.
State disease control officials confirmed that an infected chipmunk corpse was found at the Martis Creek Campground near the airport. State health officials have closed the campground while they spray insecticide on rodents, count flea populations and apply insecticide to animal burrows in an effort to eradicate the disease from the area. They expect to open the campground within 10 days.
Animals at the Logger Camp at Stampede Reservoir and Granite Flat on Highway 89 near Truckee were also both found positive for plague and the sites have been temporarily closed.
Officials said that the plague has started slowly this season. Out of 244 rodents and animals tested statewide, only three showed signs of plague infection. Last year, fully 70 percent of coyotes trapped in Sierra and Plumas counties were found plague positive. One cat died in Truckee from the disease. A Kern County cattle rancher was also infected last year but recovered.
The Nevada County Department of Environmental Health urges Truckee residents to be especially wary of rodents, including squirrels and mice.
While the plague is constantly present in this area, it only becomes a significant danger at the first sign of a rise in dead or dying squirrels and chipmunks. Officials encourage local residents to report any sign of unusual death among rodents or pets to authorities.
Disease control officials warn that cats are particularly susceptible to infection because of their tendency to hunt rodents and that their owners can contract the disease through saliva, blood, fleas or airborne transmission.
Bubonic and pneumonic plague can both be fatal. Bubonic kills 50 percent of its victims and pneumonic plague can lead to death in only 24 hours. People infected have fever, chills and aches usually within two to six days. Be sure to contact a physician immediately at the first sign of illness within seven days of being in a plague-infested area. Both diseases are generally curable in their early stages.
Health officials suggests that people avoid contact with mice, squirrels and other rodents as well as their burrows, and that residents be especially cautious of children and pets.
General precautions include: using flea powder on pets; not feeding or otherwise supporting rodent populations; and avoiding contact with your sick pets.
If you must remove a potentially infected rodent’s corpse, protect yourself from its fleas with insect repellent, a face mask and seal the corpse in an airtight plastic bag or container. Fumigate the area thoroughly and notify disease control.
Gray tree squirrels are not usually infected with plague nor are the bodies of rodents killed by hunters or on roadsides. While these cases are not candidates for testing, they should be buried with full precaution.
County environmental health officials are available at (530) 582-7884.
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