Yes, Lake Tahoe Chipmunks Have the Plague. But Don’t Worry (Too Much).

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California officials closed immoderate fashionable trails and quality areas for the week to grip the problem. The trails are expected to reopen for the weekend.

A occurrence  lookout with the U.S. Forest Service feeds a chipmunk successful  Tahoe National Forest.
Credit...Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Johnny Diaz

Aug. 5, 2021Updated 3:45 p.m. ET

When California officials closed parts of South Lake Tahoe this week, the quality sounded alarming: A dormant chipmunk had tested affirmative for the plague, the uncommon yet highly infectious bacterial illness liable for sidesplitting millions of radical successful Europe during the Middle Ages.

Lake Tahoe, which is possibly champion known arsenic an outdoor playground for celebrities and the ultrarich successful gated compounds, has seen a stock of calamities lately, from wildfires to earthquakes, but the plague scare was taken successful stride.

“We each request to beryllium cautious astir animals that tin transportation it,’’ according to Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit of the United States Forest Service, which announced the closings connected Monday.

These days the pathogen associated with the Black Death is treatable with antibiotics, and it is not that antithetic for it to beryllium recovered among the rodents of California, including successful the higher elevation mountainous areas of El Dorado County, the authorities said.

The basal advice: Keep yourself and your pets distant from the chipmunks, squirrels and different chaotic rodents that transportation fleas infected with the illness — and hold for the authorities to spray insecticide to termination the fleas.

The closings affected the Taylor Creek Visitor Center and Kiva Beach, fashionable picturesque spots with quality trails adjacent Lake Tahoe, and their parking areas, which volition beryllium closed done Friday and volition apt reopen this weekend. The visitant halfway is astir 3 miles northbound from the metropolis of South Lake Tahoe, Calif., successful El Dorado County, which is eastbound of Sacramento.

People tin beryllium exposed to plague done an infected flea bite, handling an infected rodent, oregon vulnerability to an infected favored specified arsenic a sick cat. Early symptoms tin see precocious fever, chills, nausea, weakness and swollen lymph nodes successful the neck, armpit oregon groin.

What prompted the closings? Someone recovered a dormant rodent.

El Dorado Vector Control collected the carcass from the visitant halfway connected July 18 and sent it to the California Department of Public Health for processing and plague testing, Carla Hass, a spokeswoman for El Dorado County, said successful an email.

Ms. Hass said the carcass was identified arsenic a yellow-pine chipmunk, and 10 fleas were collected from it.

On July 29, the Health Department reported that the chipmunk had tested affirmative for plague. The excavation of fleas besides tested positive.

“On the county’s recommendation, the Forest Service enacted the closures, effectual done Friday,” Ms. Hass said.

No humans are believed to person travel into interaction with the chipmunk, said Lisa Herron, a spokeswoman for the Forest Service astatine Lake Tahoe.

On Thursday, the work began dusting an insecticide successful rodent burrows to trim the flea population.

Human cases of plague are uncommon and radical tin beryllium treated with antibiotics, the wood work said. But the illness tin go terrible and sometimes fatal if it is not treated early, according to the authorities Health Department.

Last year, a South Lake Tahoe nonmigratory tested affirmative for plague, according to El Dorado County officials. The resident, an avid walker, whitethorn person been infected aft being bitten by a flea. The lawsuit was the archetypal successful 5 years successful California, according to the Tahoe Daily Tribune.

It mightiness look similar Lake Tahoe can’t drawback a interruption lately. It has been struck with drought, wildfires and earthquakes. This summer, officials implemented “enhanced occurrence restrictions” that prohibited wood and charcoal fires successful the Tahoe basin and campgrounds. Last month, a wildfire that had been burning for 2 weeks conscionable southbound of Lake Tahoe prompted a question of evacuations and lawsuit cancellations.

But erstwhile it came to a deadly medieval illness the authoritative proposal was focused connected basal precautions, chiefly involving pets.

Ms. Herron said that radical who sojourn areas wherever progressive plague has been recovered should enactment connected trails and support their pets distant from rodents.

She added, “If you indispensable bring your pet, support them connected abbreviated leash and bash not fto them analyse rodent burrows.”

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