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Squirrel with bubonic plague closes campgrounds in Angeles National Forest

A baby squirrel is seen in Los Angeles, California on September 7, 2009. Recently, in the City of Santa Monica, California, officials came up with a novel way to control the squirrel population in Palisades Park. County officials are concerned that the squirrels pose a danger to public health, but the city wants a more humane solution to the problem than the usual method of euthanasia. Instead, they are opting to give the squirrels a contraceptive vaccine. AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images
A baby squirrel is seen in Los Angeles, California on September 7, 2009. Recently, a plague-infected squirrel has prompted the closure of three campgrounds in the Angeles National Forest.

A plague-infected squirrel has prompted the closure of three campgrounds in the Angeles National Forest.

The compromised critter was trapped on July 16 — this week the animal tested positive for bubonic plague.

The disease is spread through flea bites and can be fatal if untreated. Bubonic plague symptoms "appear suddenly, usually after 2 - 5 days of exposure to the bacteria," according to the National Institute of Health:

SYMPTOMS OF THE PLAGUE (via NIH)

TREATMENT FOR THE PLAGUE (via NIH)

AVOID THIS LOCATION LIKE THE PLAGUE

The Los Angeles Daily News reports Wednesday that some areas of the Table Mountain campground — located near Wrightwood about 50 miles northeast of L.A. — will be closed for at least a week while officials dust squirrel burrows in an effort to control fleas. The shutdown is in effect at the following camps:

  • Broken Blade
  • Twisted Arrow
  • Pima Loops

HOW TO STAY PLAGUE-FREE

The Los Angeles Public Health Department issued an advisory with tips on staying  plague-free and some encouraging words from Jonathan E. Fielding, M.D., M.P.H., Director of Public Health:

The advisory recommend that visitors to other recreational areas:

Fielding says to protect yourself with an insect repellant that contains DEET if you plan on visiting the forest — products with DEET are not safe for pets, however.

I SEE A DEAD SQUIRREL. WHAT SHOULD I DO?

According to the advisory, members of the public who see dead ground squirrels in recreational areas should call the health department's "Vector Management Program" at (626) 430-5450.

This story has been updated.