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Plague outbreak prompts campground closure

Mona Hill
Staff Writer

State and county officials temporarily closed Plumas-Eureka State Park's Jamison Creek Campground Wednesday, Aug. 18, after discovery of a dead rodent that tested positive for plague.

Director of Plumas County Environmental Health Jerry Sipe said the discovery triggered a rodent survey, including trapping and blood testing.

Although testing results are still pending, based on the park's history and the numbers and activity of the rodents, the state's Department of Public Health recommended the closure.

Sipe said state public health, county and state park officials worked together on the rodent survey and came to a joint decision to close the park proactively for rodent treatment.

Officials hope to re-open the park in time for the Labor Day holiday weekend. The park is scheduled to close for the season Sept. 7.

Bubonic plague, an infectious, flea-borne bacterial disease is usually found in squirrels and chipmunks, among other wild rodents. In most cases, the fleas transfer from the rodents to pets and on to humans. Outbreaks routinely occur in densely concentrated rodent populations.

In June 1976, then 6-year-old Roxanne Kaymoni, camping with her parents in the park, was bitten by a flea and contracted the plague. She was treated at a San Francisco hospital and recovered.

In 1992 - 93, the park was closed because of a plague outbreak.

Plague can usually be treated effectively with antibiotics. Without prompt treatment, the risk of death is high. According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 14 percent of cases result in death.

Sipe said control measures would focus on pesticide dusting rodents for fleas at bait stations throughout the park.    According to Plumas-Eureka officials, the campground was fully booked for the Railroad Days weekend, Aug. 20 - 22. Facilities at the campground include 70 tent sites and an unknown number of RV sites. The museum and hiking trails remain open.

Other state parks in the region are also fully booked. Campsites may still be available at Forest Service facilities in the area, as well as private facilities.

In a call to Reserve America, the park system's national booking agency, a customer service representative said campers with reservations received a sound bite notification - a recorded telephone call - advising them of the closure.

A customer service representative said campers would receive a full refund or could change reservations, if there were any available.

For more information, call the Department of Parks and Recreation, (916) 654-7538; Reserve America, (800) 444-7275; or Plumas County Environmental Health Department, 283-6355.

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