Health Officials Confirm Second Case Of Plague From Yosemite

21 Aug

A Georgia woman has tested positive for the bubonic plague following a visit to Yosemite National Park, the state’s health department said Thursday. 

The patient was released from the hospital Tuesday night and is doing “very well,” Georgia Department of Public Health spokeswoman Nancy Nydam told The Huffington Post. 

This is the second human plague diagnosis that has been linked to Yosemite this summer. 


The Georgia woman visited the national park and surrounding areas earlier this month, according to California health officials. In July, a child who visited nearby Stanislaus National Forest and camped at Yosemite’s Crane Flat Campground was diagnosed with plague.

The Tuolumne Meadows Campground at Yosemite, a popular tourist site, was closed earlier this week so workers could treat the area with insecticide and is expected to reopen Friday.

Karen Smith, director of the California Department of Public Health, announced in a statement on Tuesday that her office had been notified of the Georgia woman’s case and that there was “probable cause” to believe she had contracted the plague. 

The bacteria that causes bubonic plague is most commonly transmitted by fleas and transferred to humans via flea bites or through contact with contaminated tissue or fluids, usually from a sick or dead animal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is also possible, but less common, for an infected person to spread the disease by coughing. 

Smith advised park visitors to take certain precautions to minimize their exposure to fleas or animals that could be infected, but indicated the second reported case was no cause for alarm.

“The fact that there’s been a second case of plague does not mean that there’s substantially more plague circulating in the rodent population,” Smith said. “It’s a reflection of the large number of people through the area in the summer.” 

People experiencing early symptoms — which Smith said can include high fever, chills, nausea, weakness, swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, armpit or groin — should seek medical attention promptly.

“The key is to get diagnosed and get on the treatment quickly, and that’s what happened in this case,” Nydam said.  

She said notifying medical professionals of your recent travel history is important, since it could help them identify what diseases you may have been exposed to. The Georgia woman’s family told her doctor she had visited Yosemite and brought to the hospital a newspaper article mentioning a link between the disease and the park.


Although 25 million people died from “the Black Death” over a five-year span during the 14th century, health officials say the plague is easily treatable with modern antibiotics. 

Domestically, plague typically occurs in the western United States, according to the CDC. Two people in the U.S. have died of plague since 2013, most recently in Colorado earlier this year. The nation’s last urban outbreak of rat-associated plague occurred in Los Angeles between 1924 and 1925.  


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