Plague-infected chipmunks force closures around Lake Tahoe

California officials have closed down areas near Lake Tahoe due to plague-infected chipmunks, the Tahoe Daily Tribune reported on Monday.

El Dorado County spokeswoman Carla Hass told the newspaper that the positive tests were found in chipmunks that had no human contact. 

The El Dorado County Public Health Department said that the plague is naturally present in some parts of California, according to the Tribune. 

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The plague is an infectious bacterial disease that can spread through various wild animals and rodents, which can lead to humans being infected if they have close contact with the animals, the Tribune reported. 

The U.S. Forest Service said that nearby locations such as the Taylor Creek Visitor Center and Kiva Beach have been closed until Friday. The Tallac Site and the Kiva parking area will remain open during the duration of the closure. 

A South Lake Tahoe resident tested positive for the disease in September 2020, prompting Public Health Officer Nancy Williams to share the importance of taking precautions when hiking in the area. 

“It’s important that individuals take precautions for themselves and their pets when outdoors, especially while walking, hiking or camping in areas where wild rodents are present,” Williams said. “Human cases of plague are extremely rare but can be very serious.”