School hasn’t started just yet. If you vacation plans this year included or will include a trip to sunny California, there’s something happening right now that you might want to keep your eye on (besides the raging wildfires sweeping through the state, that is). California health officials are currently in the middle of investigating Yosemite National Park after visitors from two separate trips to the area this summer contracted the plague.
The first victim was a child from LA who was hospitalized in mid-July after visiting the park. The child is currently on the mend, but just a few short weeks later a second visitor to the park was hospitalized with similar symptoms. Since then, two campgrounds have been closed in Yosemite, and state authorities are warning all visitors about possible plague risks.
There are very few cases of the plague every year, with the average for the U.S. in previous decades sitting somewhere around 7 cases each year. Already this year in addition to the California cases, however, two people in Colorado have died from the plague.
The disease, which is spread primarily by squirrels, chipmunks, and other rodents, is more prominent in the southwestern U.S. and can only be contracted through close contact with an infected animal or if they are bitten by a flea from an infected animal. Except under extreme circumstances, the plague cannot be transmitted from human to human.
The two cases of the plague from California aren’t huge cause to worry, and the CDC is confident that the plague remains a minimal threat to humans, but the infections have been serious enough to cause several tourists to think twice before adding Yosemite to their list of must-visits this year.
If you’re planning a trip out west, specifically one that includes Yosemite, remember to stay on guard, be wary of woodland rodents, and seek medical treatment if you start to suffer from any plague-related symptoms. Chances are you’ll be fine, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry!