Plague Alert: County Squirrel Exposed To Plague Bacteria

County health officials say this is first positive test in almost 10 years.

POSTED: 12:06 PM PDT Oct 09, 2012    UPDATED: 11:23 PM PDT Oct 09, 2012 
Squirrel on table
IDYLLWILD, Calif. -

For the first time in almost a decade, a ground squirrel in the San Jacinto Mountains has tested positive for exposure to fleas infected with bacteria that can cause plague, county officials said today.

State health officials notified the Riverside County Department of Environmental Health about results from a squirrel the department collected Sept. 6 at the Fern Basin campground during routine testing.  The campground is north of Idyllwild.

County health officials said the risk of transmission to humans is minimal if people take proper precautions. Plague is a bacterial disease that can be transmitted from wild rodents to humans through bites from infected fleas.

Historically, positive test results have occurred routinely among ground squirrels in the mountain region. Despite positive tests in other California counties and regular, routine testing locally, Riverside County has had no positive tests for almost a decade. Further tests on animals in the area will be conducted this month.