Local, state and federal officials are urging caution after a chipmunk near Taylor Creek Visitor Center in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., was found infected with plague last week, the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza reported.
The rodent was rolled up in a ball, shaking and struggling to breathe when it was discovered by a U.S. Forest Service employee, Forest Service spokeswoman Cheva Heck said.
Vector control officials were contacted and captured the animal, which tested presumptive positive for the bacteria that causes plague, Yersinia pestis, Heck said.
The disease is rare, highly infectious and can be fatal, according to a Wednesday statement from the El Dorado County Environmental Management Department.
But plague is curable in its early stages with diagnosis and treatment. Symptoms include high fever, chills, nausea, weakness and swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpit or groin.
People are typically exposed to plague through an infected flea bite, handling an infected rodent or exposure to an infected pet — especially cats, according to the statement.
Residents and visitors to picnic spots and campgrounds should take precautions to protect themselves against the disease following the discovery, said Bob Hartmann, El Dorado County’s interim public health officer, in the statement.