The San Diego County Department of Environmental Health issued a warning that a squirrel tested positive for plague. The announcement came early on Wednesday, as DEH said they had found a ground squirrel at the Doane Valley Campground on Palomar Mountain that tested positive for plague, marking a concern that there could be more squirrels serving as carriers. It means that there is the potential that plague is within the squirrel population within the area, but the DEH wouldn’t go as far as saying that there could be other cases.
According to Gary Erbeck, who serves as director for the county DEH, “this is the first squirrel that has tested positive for plague this year in this park.” He went on to issue the following warning at a press conference: “Please don’t set up your tents near squirrel burrows, do not feed the squirrels and please warn your children not to play with the squirrels.” It’s probably a good warning to heed anyways, but in this instance, it could prove deadly to ignore what Erbeck and his organization has to say. Squirrels aren’t always the friendliest of animals, and there is no telling what the behavior of one in the park might be.
This was the only squirrel that Erbeck noted had tested positive for plague, but it stands to reason that if one of the squirrels is serving as a carrier, that more than one of them must be. Plague, for those who are unaware, is a bacterial disease that is very harmful to humans. It is a disease that wild rodents tend to carry around, and which can be transmitted to humans through either a bite, or through fleas that might call the animal home. It is a problematic disease that can cause death quickly in humans, but which can live in rodents for quite some time without causing issue to that animal.
Because the disease is carried by rodents, it isn’t always easy to tell if one of them actually has it. Plague is the type of disease that can do nothing to a squirrel or rat, but prove very deadly if it were to come into contact with humans. It is because of this that many signs are now being posted to warn everyone using the park. Campers and hikers that enjoy Palomar Mountain should be aware of their surroundings are try to stay away from the squirrels, and under no circumstances should they try to feed one. Even if they are cute. Health officials haven’t said how wide-spread they think that the disease is amongst the rodent population in the area, but have noted that there have been no human cases reported at this time.
Source: News 10 in San Diego