Officials at Yosemite National Park in California said on Friday that they will temporarily close a popular campsite because two squirrels were found dead of plague in the area.
The Tuolumne Meadows Campground will be closed until Friday, Aug. 21, so that the area can be treated with a flea-killing insecticide. The insecticide must be sprayed into the burrows of rodents, according to the California Department of Health. The National Park Service, which is in charge of Yosemite, called this an "extremely precautionary public health measure."
Plague is carried by rodents and small mammals and is spread by fleas that jump from rodents to people. It is only rarely transmitted from one person to another.
A child became sick with the plague after camping with his family at Yosemite's Crane Flat Campground in mid-July. The park reopened that campground on Friday after treating it for four days with an insecticide. The child has been recovering in a hospital. No other family members became sick. It was the first case of human plague in California since 2007.
Cases of plague are not unusual in the Southwest and Western United States. Since 1970, there have been 42 people infected with plague in California, with nine deaths. Health officials find plague-infected animals every year, mostly in the state's mountains and foothill regions. In 2014, animals infected with plague were found in seven counties in California.
The symptoms of the plague include fever, chills, weakness, abdominal pain, and swollen lymph nodes that can turn black. It can be treated and cured with antibiotics, but can be deadly if treatment is delayed.
Yosemite National Park is located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California and covers nearly 1,200 square miles. It is one of the oldest and most popular of the national parks and includes such features are giant sequoia trees and the granite cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome.