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Ew! Squirrel Tests Positive For Bubonic Plague

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Photo by Lucyrk in LA via the LAist Featured Photos pool
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A squirrel tested positive for the bacteria that we associate more with 14th century Europe than Southern California.During routine tests, a squirrel in the San Jacinto Mountains in Riverside county tested positive for the bacteria that causes the bubonic plague. This is the first time the bacteria has surfaced in Riverside County in almost a decade, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The exposed squirrel was found in the Fern Basin campground north of Idyllwild, but county officials says there's no need for hikers and campers to panic since the risk of an animal-to-human transmission is minimal. Officials plan to conduct some more tests on animals in the area.

"We don't want to incite panic in the public. Our first reaction is just to make sure people are aware that it's out there so they can take precautions to protect their families and their pets," Dottie Merki, the county's environmental health program chief, told the Times.

That being said, if you're in the area, there are some simple, common-sense ways to avoid exposure: Avoid contact with squirrels and other animals, alive or dead. Don't camp near animal burrows. Don't bring your pets along, but if you do keep and eye on them and keep them on a tight leash. Watch for fleas, which carry the disease. And if you don't feel good after visiting an area affected by the plague, you should contact a doctor. Symptoms of the bubonic plague a sudden fever, chills and tender swollen lymph nodes.