California health officials are reporting today a second (presumptive) human plague case in a visitor to Yosemite National Park. This follows the case of a Los Angeles County boy who contracted the dangerous bacterial infection in mid-July.

Public domain image/National Atlas of the United States
Public domain image/National Atlas of the United States

California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Director and State Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith said the health department was notified about the patient from Georgia. The individual had been vacationing in Yosemite National Park, the Sierra National Forest and surrounding areas in California in early August.

Health officials are awaiting confirmatory testing being performed by the CDC.

Although the presence of plague has been confirmed in wild rodents over the past two weeks at Crane Flat and Tuolumne Meadows campgrounds in Yosemite, the risk to human health remains low. Action to protect human and wildlife health by closing and treating campgrounds was taken out of an abundance of caution. Park visitors are being notified by Yosemite of camp treatments, possible plague risks and are being provided information on how to prevent plague transmission. CDC has notified CDPH that recent communications about plague enabled health care providers in Georgia to make the diagnosis more quickly.

“The California Department of Public Health and Yosemite National Park were very proactive in their campaign to educate visitors about plague,” said Dr. Smith. “Warnings issued in California regarding plague were useful all the way across the country in Georgia. Those warnings helped the patient get the prompt medical attention necessary to recover from this illness.”

Flea treatment successfully reduced the risk of plague transmission at Crane Flat Campground and Tuolumne Meadows Campground in the National Park. The treatments controlled potentially plague-infected fleas which could spread the disease to humans and other warm-blooded hosts. Yosemite National Park remains open and all campgrounds and facilities, except Tuolumne Meadows, remain open to visitors. CDPH reminds the public to take protective measures against the illness.

If confirmed, this would be the seventh human plague case in the US to date.

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