07/25/2013 11:26 am ET Updated Sep 24, 2013

Plague Detected In California Squirrel, Campgrounds Close

By Karen Brooks

July 25 (Reuters) - A ground squirrel found in a Los Angeles-area campground has tested positive for plague, causing authorities to shut down part of the Angeles National Forest for at least a week, according to a public health advisory.

Squirrel burrows will be dusted for fleas, which carry the bacteria that causes the disease known as "the Black Death," authorities said, while more ground squirrels in the area will be tested before campers are allowed back.

It was the sixth squirrel since 1995 to test positive for plague in Southern California's San Gabriel Mountains, including one in 2010, according to the advisory issued on Wednesday.

The most recent infected squirrel was trapped on July 16 during routine checks in the park and confirmed to carry the disease on July 23, according to the advisory. Part of the Angeles National Forest was shut down beginning on Wednesday afternoon.

The plague was dubbed the Black Death in the Middle Ages, when it was blamed for the deaths of around 25 million Europeans.

It is treated with antibiotics and only an average of seven cases a year are reported in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Virtually all the U.S. cases have been in the western states.

Last year, an Oregon man survived a bout with plague, one of three reported in that state since the mid-1990s, none of which were fatal. Los Angeles County has only seen four cases since 1987, and none were fatal, according to the advisory. (Reporting by Karen Brooks in Austin, Texas; Editing by David Gregorio)



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