How to avoid getting the plague

A tourist from Georgia just came down with a suspected case of plague in Yosemite, the second park visitor to be diagnosed with the rare disease this month, the California Department of Public Health said in a statement.

You can become infected with plague from a flea bite, or by having contact with infected tissues or fluids from an animal that is sick with or died from the disease, such as a squirrel, chipmunk, or other rodent. You can also get it from inhaling droplets in the breath of infected cats or humans.

Experts offered this handy advice for lowering the risk of contracting the horrendous (but treatable since the advent of modern antibiotics) disease:

  • Never feed squirrels, chipmunks or other rodents and never touch sick or dead rodents.
  • Don’t walk or camp near rodent burrows.
  • Wear long pants tucked into socks or boot tops to prevent flea bites.
  • Use insect repellent (containing the chemical DEET) on skin and clothing, especially socks and pant cuffs.
  • Keep wild rodents out of homes, trailers, and outbuildings, and away from pets.

Once known as the Black Death, plague still exists in parts of the US southwest, but is pretty rare (only about 7 Americans get the disease per year).

The second Yosemite case is the fourth one in the US in recent months. A child is recovering from the disease after contracting it on a visit to Crane Flat National Campground in Yosemite. Earlier this month, a woman died of plague in a rural part of Colorado’s Pueblo County, and a Colorado teen died of the disease in June.

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