Child contracts plague while camping at Yosemite National Park

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A child from Los Angeles County is recovering in the hospital after getting sick with the plague while camping at Yosemite National Park. (KABC)

A California child is recovering in the hospital after getting sick with the plague while camping at Yosemite National Park.

The patient, whose name has not been released, and his family took a vacation and camped at Yosemite's Crane Flat Campground in mid-July. The family also visited other places in the Stanislaus National Forest.

"It's likely that the patient was bitten by a flea that had been on an infected rodent," said Dr. Benjamin Schwartz with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

The infectious disease is carried by rodents, such as squirrels and chipmunks, and is spread by fleas.

The rodents that carry the plague are present in many areas of California, including the mountains and foothills as well as some areas along the coast, Schwartz said.

An adult in Pueblo County in Colorado died from the plague and a dead prairie dog tested positive for the disease. The county's health department is now collecting and testing fleas.

Health experts listed ways to avoid exposure to the plague:
  • Do not feed or touch wild rodents
  • When hiking or walking along trails, avoid rodent burrows
  • Wear long pants tucked into socks or boots to reduce flea exposure
  • Spray insect repellent with DEET on socks and pant cuffs

Experts say the disease is not transmitted between humans, except in rare cases, and it can be fatal if left untreated.

Early symptoms of the plague include high fever, chills, nausea, weakness, and swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpit or groin.

The California and Los Angeles County departments of public health, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Yosemite National Park and U.S. Forest Service personnel are investigating the source of the infection using the patient's travel history and activities during the incubation period.

The last human infection reported in California was in 2006.
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