Plague-infested chipmunks force closures of South Lake Tahoe attractions

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Several South Lake Tahoe recreational sites have been closed to the public after chipmunks tested positive for plague.

Taylor Creek Visitor Center, Kiva Beach and their respective parking areas will be closed throughout the week while planned vector control eradication treatments are completed, the Tahoe Daily Tribune reported.

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El Dorado County spokesperson Carla Hass confirmed to the Merced Sun-Star that no human contact with the infected chipmunks has been reported to date.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people infected by plague typically experience a sudden onset of fever, headache, chills and weakness and “one or more swollen, tender and painful lymph nodes,” known as buboes. The bacteria then multiply in the lymph node closest to where the bacteria entered the body and can spread to other parts of the body if left untreated.

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The bacterial infection is typically spread by squirrels, chipmunks and other wild rodents, as well as by their fleas, the Tribune reported.

Officials with El Dorado County Public Health urged caution around animals that carry plague, which is naturally present in many parts of California, including higher elevations.

“It’s important that individuals take precautions for themselves and their pets when outdoors, especially while walking, hiking or camping in areas where wild rodents are present,” Public Health Officer Dr. Nancy Williams stated during a 2020 press conference confirming California’s first human plague case in five years, the Tribune reported.

“Human cases of plague are extremely rare but can be very serious,” Williams added.

According to the Merced Sun-Star, the Tallac Historic Site and Kiva picnic parking area will remain open throughout the eradication treatments, and the closed attractions are expected to reopen by the weekend.

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