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How Worried Should We Be About Squirrels Carrying the Bubonic Plague?

Health & Wellness  (tags: plague, research, study, protection, risks, medicine, humans, health, environment, children, treatment, society, warning, family, interesting, news, safety, society, protection, wildlife, research, government, forests, illness, medicine, investigation )

- 1757 days ago -
"It is important for the public to know that there have only been four cases of human plague in Los Angeles County residents since 1984, none of which were fatal," noted health department chief Dr. Jonathan Fielding

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Roxie H (350)
Sunday July 28, 2013, 1:10 pm
A plague-infected squirrel caused the closure of a California campground this week after it was found during a routine trapping, Los Angeles County health officials confirmed. The bubonic plague or the Black Death, as it used to be known killed 25 million people in the Middle Ages, decimating the European continent. So should you be worried?

Well, not really... though it depends. If you live on the East Coast, or in a major city near with access to basic health care, then no. But, if you live out West and plan to go hiking or camping any time soon, don't go touching any dead squirrels. Actually, don't ever touch dead squirrels. Don't touch dead anything. Just don't.

Below is the map of recent incidences of plague, courtesy the Center for Disease Control:

As you can see, the plague is rare in the US, but not totally unheard of. Cases of the disease, often caused by flea bites, pop up a few times every year, according to the CDC. Historically, rats have been the key carrier of those fleas, and thus of the disease, although almost any of our furry friends, including squirrels and rabbits, are possible culprits. Camels, too.

"It is important for the public to know that there have only been four cases of human plague in Los Angeles County residents since 1984, none of which were fatal," noted health department chief Dr. Jonathan Fielding.

The plague is treatable with antibiotics, according to the CDC's website. Early medical attention is the key to a full recovery.

So it looks like we'll all be okay. But watch out if you do experience any of the plague's symptoms, including "sudden onset of fever, headache, chills, and weakness and one or more swollen, tender and painful lymph nodes." The real takeaway here: Don't hang out with squirrels, like this lady in Belarus. No matter how cute they are.


Constance F (418)
Monday July 29, 2013, 9:07 pm
NOT ~ and I live in the area.

Kat K (54)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 6:24 am
Don't we have enough to worry about?? Don't give us anything else. Sometimes I think people just sit around and think about it until gets blown out of proportion. It's always good to be careful, of course, but hey~~c'mon give us a break. Just listen to your instincts and don't hang out with any wild animal. It's okay to watch them, but just leave them alone, the way it should be. They were never meant to be tampered with to begin with.

Suzanne L (99)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 6:32 am
I'm not too worried. There's a vaccine now too for folks who might be more at risk. There are some people (mostly British descent I think) who are immune.

. (0)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 6:35 am
I would be worried. I wouldn't want to get the plague and die. It would be horrible.

Arielle S (313)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 7:52 am
I am much more worried about people with guns, drunk drivers, getting a bug in a hospital, eating GMO's, being poisoned by fracking...... for me, this is just another diversion so people won't worry about what they should be worried about...

S S (0)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 1:21 pm
Thank you.

Kate Kenner (215)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 2:21 pm
Honestly this is something I do not thinkI'll lose sleep on although I'm guessing there are some nuts who will.. I would be more worried about what people will do to me than getting the plague from squirrel.

Birgit W (160)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 4:24 pm
Don't worry, be happy.

Connie O (44)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 4:27 pm
I am not worried at all. Maybe the squirrels are getting back at the communities that thrill in killing them for organized events (although these are on the other coast).

John De Avalon (36)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 4:28 pm
I don't think we need to be worried, though I fear the squirrels do. What's the betting there'll be a squirrel massacre...

Connie O (44)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 4:28 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Roxy because you have done so within the last day

Gloria H (88)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 8:13 pm
I'm more worried about the squirrels that work in the biological warfare labs playing with plague causing germ warfare. At our taxpayer expense!

Sheila D (194)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 8:18 pm
Since I don't make a habit of playing with squirrels, living or dead, or rabbits, and especially not rats, I won't worry. For me that's something huge because I am normally a worrier...Noted with thanks.

Inge Bjorkman (202)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 11:20 pm
Totally agree with Arielle S. I feed squirrels for many years. People are more infectious

Love and Understanding

Jonathan Harper (0)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 4:17 am
Sounds bad though!

Lona G (80)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 5:52 am
I hope this is not going to be another excuse for hunters to go and exterminate them all.

Lloyd H (46)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 6:02 am
Can you say, "There is no there, there." This is a non-story.

. (0)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 6:30 am
The Bubonic Plague does occur in nature. Let's not blow this all out of proportion. I would be more worried about Lyme's Disease which I suspect is man-made through the genetic manipulation of mycoplasmic organisms. It's kin to Lupus and Fibromyalgia and a lot of other things under the Epstein-Barr syndrome umbrella.

Roberta Z (16)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 6:41 am
No virus or plague is ever really wiped out, they just go dormant. I'd worry about rabies before I worried about the plague.

Winn Adams (179)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 6:48 am

Lynne Buckley (0)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 12:52 pm
I'm not worried.

Jen S (121)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 1:07 pm
The danger is grossly overrated; I lived very near to three of the largest natioanl parks in California and was in them frequently. At one point, we were in an area where plague was detected the following to no ill effects. An infected squirrel appears occasionally. The disease is not easily transmitted short of handling an infected or, more likely, a dead squirel-don't. If,however, you are exposed to one, the disease is very responsive to basic antibiotics and history would have been very different if penicillin had been discovered a millenia or more ago.

Ruth C (87)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 2:22 pm
I say its a load of BS, they are just looking for a way to get rid of the Squirrels!

Lindsey O (19)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 5:53 pm
Words like "bubonic plague" do trigger unfortunate responses in many. But the risk is so minor and the treatment usually so effective that it's something I wouldn't worry about at all.

marie C (163)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 5:56 pm
Yes Ruth even tried having a restaurant cooking them in London of course a failure
I feed them during the winter in my local park they used to hibernate but last winter was so cold out they came little survivors we have taken all their woodlands

Marija M (29)
Thursday August 1, 2013, 11:12 am
tks for sharing

Shan D (49)
Thursday August 1, 2013, 12:51 pm
While it's good advice not to touch dead squirrels (at least not with your bare hands), this is ridiculously overexaggerated. There is a long wildlife migration corridor that runs right through my city, and we have a wildlife sanctuary within city limits. I've lived near squirrels all my life, and they are wonderful little creatures. They even took in a stray kitten in my back yard before I was able to catch and adopt him. The kitten would run up and down the crab apple trees with the squirrels, and got along with them very well - even to the point of speaking squirrel chatter (took him a little while to realize he was a cat).

I'm more afraid of catching West Nile virus from mosquitoes than anything from a squirrel, since I never touch them or interfere with their eating or nesting.

Roxie H (350)
Saturday August 3, 2013, 8:16 am
actually, the point of posting this was to not alarm anyone and to save the squirrels. There is no reason to panic, which is what some people tend to do, especially govt. agency's that love a reason to kill wildlife for drilling

Sergio Padilla (65)
Saturday August 3, 2013, 8:00 pm
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