Every year, picturesque Yosemite National Park gets
about 4 million visitors. But one arrival this summer is definitely not
welcome: the plague.
California’s Department of Public Health and the national park
announced Thursday that a child who visited nearby Stanislaus National
and camped at Yosemite’s Crane Flat Campground
in mid-July had
contracted the plague.
That child is recovering, and no other members of the camping party have reported any related symptoms.
Still, authorities are monitoring them as well as warning others to
be on guard against the flea-transmitted disease
. These extra steps
include putting up caution signs
at Crane Flat and other campgrounds and
urging people to take precautions such as:
• Not feeding squirrels, chipmunks or other rodents or touching sick or dead ones
• Avoiding hiking or camping near rodent burrows
• Putting on long pants tucked into socks or boots with the hope they’ll provide a barrier to fleas
• Spraying insect repellent with DEET on socks and pant cuffs — again, to fend off fleas
• Keeping wild rodents away from homes, trailers and buildings, not to mention pets
2 deadly plague cases this year in Colorado
Contagious and potentially deadly viruses are not new for Yosemite,
where throngs of people flock annually to enjoy breathtaking rocky
cliffs, refreshing river waters and dense forests.
In 2012, for instance, three park visitors died after contracting hantavirus
Yet plague cases are rare not just in Yosemite, but across the United States.
The disease killed millions
centuries ago, and — while it can be
treated with modern medicine such as antibiotics and antimicrobial —
it’s never gone away.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the
United States has about seven annual cases, over 80% of which have been
in the bubonic
There have been three cases reported so far in 2015, which is in line
with those numbers. The other two happened in Colorado and both
resulted in deaths, one being a teenager in Larimer County and the other
an adult in Pueblo County, as announced Wednesday by the local health
The Yosemite case is California’s first instance of human plague
since 2006, according to state health officer Dr. Karen Smith
there were three cases in Mono, Los Angeles and Kern counties. There
have been 42 such cases in the state since 1970, of which nine proved
“Although this is a rare disease, people should protect themselves
from infection by avoiding any contact with wild rodents,” Smith said.