Squirrel tests positive for plague near Palomar Mountain

Gig Conaughton
County of San Diego
Communications Office

A ground squirrel trapped in routine monitoring at the Cedar Grove Campground on Palomar Mountain has tested positive for plague, San Diego County Vector Control officials said Sept. 15.

County environmental health officials said it is common to find the bacteria that causes plague in San Diego County’s mountains, but that hikers and campers can protect themselves by taking some simple actions – particularly by avoiding contact with squirrels, chipmunks and other animals in the wild.
The County is conducting flea control measures, and plague warning signs are posted as precautions.

Plague is a bacterial disease of wild rodents, but it can be spread to humans by fleas if they feed on an infected animal and then bite people. Hunters can also get infected if they handle tissue or body fluids of infected animals.

Hikers and campers in rural mountain areas should always look for plague warning signs and take simple steps to avoid coming into contact with disease-carrying fleas:

  • Avoid contact with ground squirrels, chipmunks and other wild animals.
  • Do not feed, touch or handle wild animals. Do not rest, camp or sleep near animal burrows in the ground.
  • Do not touch sick or dead animals.
  • Protect your pets by keeping them on a leash, by using flea controls, or even better, by leaving them safe at home.
  • Contact your doctor immediately if you become sick within a week of visiting an area known to have plague.

For more information about plague surveillance, call the County Vector Control Program at (858) 694-2888 or visit the Vector Control Program website, www.sandiegocounty.gov/content/sdc/deh/pests/vector_disease.html.

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