Rodent Near Idyllwild Tests Positive for Bubonic Plague
PALM DESERT--A rodent in the San Jacinto Mountains has tested positive for the bubonic plague.
County health officials say the squirrel was captured at a camp site just north of Idyllwild.
Health officials warn that the plague is a very serious disease that can quickly turn deadly.
"It's a serious disease if you get it because it has serious complications like lung infection and if you get that the mortality can get pretty high," said Infectious Disease Specialist, Dr. Mohammed Alkhatib.
It's something residents in Palm Desert had some trouble wrapping their heads around, a disease most often thought about as black death is now just miles from the Coachella Valley.
"Oh my gosh that sounds very scary, sounds like death," said Palm Desert resident Betty Deiters. "It's like oh my gosh, it makes me think I don't want to be anywhere near it. Makes you want to stay in your house."
Experts say fleas transmit the disease and they're likely to go away as the weather cools down. Ground squirrels like the one infected will go into hibernation in the coming months.
The chances of contracting the disease in humans is minimal if you take the right precautions, so if you're camping, for instance, stay away from wild animals.
That goes for dead animals too--don't touch them.
Also be careful with your pets so they're not exposed to fleas either or rodents.
"Symptoms usually you start having fevers you have large lymph nodes and probably you start having respiratory symptoms such as cough and blood in your phlegm. If you get any of these symptoms then yeah it is that disease," Dr. Alkhatib said.
The best treatment is prevention. Dr. Alkhatib recommends staying away from rodents and fleas. If you do experience any of these symptoms he says to see a doctor immediately.
Lucky for us, according to the Coachella Valley Vector Control, the plague has never actually made it into the Coachella Valley and is likely to stay at higher elevations.
Again a health warning, if you are planning on going hiking or camping in the San Jacinto Mountains just north of Idyllwild--that's where the infected squirrel was found.
Take precaution to avoid any animals. The Riverside County Department of Health has posted signs at the camp ground where the squirrel was found.