Plague (aka The Black Death) lives on in American West

Few people know this fascinating (and scary) bit of public health trivia:  Bubonic plague, a bacterial infection believed to have caused the dreadful Black Death of medieval Europe, naturally exists at a modest level in wild rodents of California and other parts of the American West.  The bacteria are carried by fleas which live on squirrels, chipmunks, rats, and mice, and these fleas can transmit the disease to humans who come in contact with them.

In August 2010, officials temporarily closed a campground at Plumas-Eureka State Park (north of Truckee, CA) when the California Dept. of Public Health tested a trapped rodent and found it positive for plague bacteria.  {Full story in the Sacramento Bee}

While plague is usually treatable with antibiotics, this is another good reason not to feed the wildlife in natural areas, no matter how cute the furry little guys are.

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