Speed Reads

Rodent problems

Lake Tahoe closes some areas due to plague-infected chipmunks

A few areas on the south shore of Lake Tahoe will be closed to visitors this week after some chipmunks tested positive for plague, officials in California's El Dorado County said. The plague-carrying chipmunks had no contact with people, an El Dorado County spokesman said, and the Taylor Creek Visitor Center, Kiva Beach, and their parking areas will probably be open by Friday, after the U.S. Forest Service conducts its eradication treatments. 

Plague, an infectious bacterial disease spread by chipmunks, squirrels, and other wild rodents, is naturally present in many parts of California, and it can spread to humans via fleas. The plague can be very serious in the rare cases it infects humans, and it can be treated with antibiotics if caught early enough. One person contracted plague in California last year, but there were no recorded cases in the five years before that.

The symptoms of plague include fever, nausea, weakness, and swollen lymph nodes, El Dorado County officials say, and it can be prevented by avoiding wild rodents, keeping your pets away from them, and treating cats and dogs with flea medicine. 

Hundreds of miles away in Monrovia, California, at least two women contracted Typhus after coming in contact with dead rats. Like plague, Typhus has symptoms that resemble COVID-19. "First, it was exhaustion and then a fever and then a headache," Margaret Holzmann, who got a breakthrough case while cleaning a dead rat from her yard, told local news stations. "I couldn't do anything, I was just so exhausted." And like plague, Typhus is spread to humans through infected fleas. "If you see something in your yard, call someone who can dispose of it safely and don't try to do it yourself," Holzmann advised.