California health officials said on Tuesday that a tourist from Georgia could be the second possible case of human plague in those who recently visited Yosemite National Park.
The tourist, whose name and other details were withheld, got tested after learning that certain parts of the park had been closed in order to spread pesticides that would eliminate fleas that carry the infection.
Two campgrounds have been closed. Yosemite's Crane Flat Campground was closed for four days after a girl from Los Angeles was diagnosed with plague after visiting there. The campground reopened last week after it was treated with insecticide.
The Tuolumne Meadows Campground was also closed so authorities can spray flea-killing insecticides at the area after two dead squirrels were found to be infected.
State Health Officer Karen Smith said that the warnings that were issued regarding the plague helped the patient receive timely medical attention that is needed to recover from the illness.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) is currently testing the person, who was reported to have been vacationing in the Sierra National Forest , Yosemite and nearby areas early this month.
Symptoms of the plague may be similar with that of a flu but the illness could be fatal if it is not treated promptly using antibiotics. Other signs of the disease include severe headache, sudden fever, chills and nausea.
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) said that although the presence of the plague is already conformed at two areas in Yosemite, the risks to humans health are still low. The agency added that closing the two campgrounds in order to treat the areas and protect the health of humans and wildlife were taken as a precaution.
"Flea treatment successfully reduced the risk of plague transmission at Crane Flat Campground and Tuolumne Meadows Campground in the National Park," CDPH said in a statement. "The treatments controlled potentially plague-infected fleas which could spread the disease to humans and other warm-blooded hosts."
The CDC said that plague infection in people are actually very rare in the U.S. , affecting only about seven per year. Still, health officials urge the public to observe precautions to avoid exposure to human plague.
CDPH advised not to feed chipmunks, squirrels and other rodents and also to avoid touching ill or dead rodents. It also advised spraying insect repellents with DEET and wearing long pants tucked into boot tops and socks to reduce flea exposures.
Photo: David Prasad | Flickr