Plague returns to eastern part of county
It’s two months late this year, but the plague has returned to Nevada County.
State Health Department scientists confirmed Thursday that a dead Yellow-Pine Chipmunk found at the Martis Creek Campground near Truckee had the much-feared disease.
Larry Sage, director of the county Environmental Health Department, said Friday that the plague surfaced in June of last year, “so we had a little reprieve this year.”
Although rare in humans, the more common bubonic plague is fatal in about 50 percent of cases if left untreated. The more serious pneumonic plague is almost always fatal if left untreated, sometimes in as little as 24 hours.
The endemic disease appears yearly in the Truckee-east county area, typically heralded by dead or dying squirrels and chipmunks. In recent years, a number of cats have become infected by plague, according to the county.
Both dogs and cats are susceptible to contracting the illness from infected rodents, squirrels, or fleas from those animals. Cats are particularly susceptible and can spread the infection to humans through saliva, blood, and by sneezing or coughing.
Cats can also spread the disease to humans by transporting dead, injured or infected rodents to the home that harbor the fleas associated with the rodents.
Early human symptoms of bubonic plague include fever, chills, muscle aches, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and extreme exhaustion.
Pneumonic plague usually includes sever pneumonia, shortness of breath, high fever, and coughing up blood.
Anybody who becomes ill within seven days of being in a plague area should contact a physician immediately, according to the county. Plague is generally curable with antibiotics if treatment begins in time.
Avoiding the Plague
Pet owners living in plague endemic areas – generally, the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada – should be alert for signs of listlessness, poor appetite, swollen glands or boils, or illness in their pets.
Precautions for avoiding plague infection include:
-Avoid rodents and their burrows.
-Keep pets inside as much as possible, and use flea powder on them.
-Wear long pants tucked into boot tops or socks in infested areas. Apply insect repellent, especially from the knees down.
-Don’t feed or otherwise support the squirrel and rodent populations.
-Campers should keep tents and sleeping quarters away from rodents and their burrows. Leave pets at home when possible.
-Avoid all contact with squirrels or rodents, sick or otherwise.
Additional information is available by contacting the Truckee office of the county Environmental Health Department at 582-7884.
Source: Nevada County Environmental Health Department.
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