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LA park evacuated after squirrel found with deadly plague bacteria

The squirrel was trapped on 16 July and test results revealed on Tuesday that the plague bacteria was present.

Image: Ground squirrel via Shutterstock

A SQUIRREL IN a Los Angeles Park has tested positive for the plague.

Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and the US Forestry Service officials have now evacuated and closed the Broken Blade, Twisted Arrow, and Pima Loops of the Table Mountain Campgrounds where the squirrel was found.

In a routine examination, the squirrel was trapped on 16 July and test results revealed on Tuesday that the plague bacteria was present.

The campsite will be closed for at least seven days as squirrel burrows in the area are dusted for fleas. Further testing of squirrels will be done before the area is re-opened to the public.

“Plague is a bacterial infection that can be transmitted to humans through the bites of infected fleas, which is why we closed affected campgrounds while preventive measures are taken to control the flea population,” said Dr Jonathan E. Fielding, director of public health at Los Angeles County.

“It is important for the public to know that there have only been four cases of human plague in Los Angeles County residents since 1984, none of which were fatal,” he added.

Transmission of plague through flea bites causes bubonic plague, with symptoms including enlargement of lymph glands near the flea bite and rapid onset of fever and chills. Untreated bubonic plague can progress to infection of the blood or lungs, causing pneumonic plague. All forms of the disease can be fatal if not treated. However, most patients respond well to antibiotic therapy.

In the 14th century the world experienced one of the most devastating pandemics in human history with Black Death plague killing between 30 million and 50 million people — about one of every three Europeans.

Read: Scientists crack genetic code of Black Death plague>
More: US farmers fear plague of ‘stink bugs’>
More: Irish researchers trace origins of Black Death>

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Amy Croffey

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