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Chipmunks in California test positive for the plague, parts of Lake Tahoe closed

UniqueThis 8 Aug 3

Chipmunks in California have tested positive for the plague

In response, local officials have closed several locations on the south shore of Lake Tahoe.

While the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) works to conduct vector control treatments to the impacted areas, The Tahoe Daily Tribune reported that the Taylor Creek Visitor Center, Kiva Beach and their parking areas will be off-limits to visitors through Friday.

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The USFS expects the facilities to reopen by the weekend.

El Dorado County spokeswoman Carla Hass said that the chipmunks that were tested had no contact with any humans and the city's public health services show that the plague is naturally present in some areas of the Golden State. 

The plague is an infectious bacterial disease. 

It tends to be spread by chipmunks and other wild rodents and their fleas

In people, symptoms can show up within two weeks of exposure to an infected animal and include fever, nausea, weakness and swollen lymph nodes.

If caught early, plague infections can be treated with the use of antibiotics. However, some cases may be fatal if not treated early.

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Hikers and others who enjoy outdoor activities are advised to avoid contact with animals and should do the same for their pets.

"Individuals can greatly reduce their risk of becoming infected with plague by taking simple precautions, including avoiding contact with wild rodents and their fleas," El Dorado County Interim County Public Health Officer Dr. Bob Hartmann said in a news release. "Do not feed rodents in picnic or campground areas and never handle sick or dead rodents. Also, leave your pets at home when visiting areas with elevated plague risk."

According to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), the plague was first introduced to the U.S. in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cases since then have occurred in northern New Mexico, northern Arizona, southern Colorado, southern Oregon, far-western Nevada and California. 

More than 80% of the U.S. plague cases have been the bubonic form and an average of seven human plague cases have been reported every year. 

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Although people of all ages have been infected by the plague around half of cases occur in people ages 12 to 45. 

It is slightly more common among men.

The USFS is reportedly working with the county and CDPH to educate the public and officials are reportedly monitoring plague-prone areas with additional rodent surveillance being conducted this week.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.