Bubonic plague discovered in Californian chipmunks

The bubonic plague has been discovered in a population of chipmunks in California, forcing closures to South Lake Tahoe attractions.

As if the coronavirus wasn’t enough – now we may have to worry about chipmunks spreading a deadly disease.


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The discovery has resulted in the forced closure of recreational sites across South Lake Tahoe, including the Taylor Creek Visitor Center and Kiva Beach.

Sadly, the closure has included some of the region’s most thrilling hiking areas, including forested glades full of wildflowers, and a creek that leads to Lake Tahoe’s shore.

How lovely!

Californians have been pretty good at keeping up with social distancing standards.

However, as El Dorado County spokesperson, Carla Hass has confirmed that no human contact with these chipmunks has been reported yet.

Good work, guys!

We sure as hell don’t want to catch this thing. Symptoms typically include a sudden onset of fever, headache, chills, and swollen, painful lymph nodes known as buboes – yikes!

Public Health Officer Dr Nancy Williams had previously announced the plague as detected in humans last year, urging that individuals: “take precautions for themselves and their pets when outdoors, especially while walking, hiking or camping in areas where wild rodents are present.”

Surprisingly, though, plague in rodents at higher elevations – a la our squirrel friends – is not all that rare.

According to Lake Tahoe public affairs specialist Lisa Herron, bubonic plague is “naturally occurring in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and (Lake Tahoe) region”.

“It’s something that visitors need to take precautions about, but it’s not something that they need to worry about.”

Good, because this next part could have easily had us very troubled:

Fortunately, the chipmunks themselves will not be targeted in federal agency’s abatement efforts. Rather, the fleas which really carry the plague will be wiped out.

Instead, regional authorities essentially trap the rodents, anesthetize them, comb them for fleas and then.. give them a flea bath! Nawww…

If everything goes according to plan, the region will be open again by the weekend.