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Plague and death of campers shadowed Yosemite

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At the peak summer tourist season at California’s Yosemite National Park there was a closure of campground. It was due to plague and death of two young campers due to a falling tree branch on their tent. And this incident casted a dark shadow.

Scott Gediman, spokesman for the Park informed that the young campers had set up their tent in the heart of the park and were sleeping when a black oak tree’s large limb fell on the tent and killed them as reported by the rangers who arrived at the Upper Pines Campground. Both the campers were under 18. The cause of the falling limb and its size were not yet known.

It is a common occurrence for large limbs to fall at Yosemite and have led to deaths occasionally, the most recent being 2012 which led to the death of a concession employee at the park when a limb hit his cabin. In 1985, nine people were injured and two killed when an open air tram was hit by a 25-foot branch.

On the other hand, another campsite close by will be closed temporarily by park officials following the death of two squirrels in the area due to plague. Thus from noon Monday to noon Friday the Tuolumne Meadows Campground will be closed to treat it with insecticide that kills fleas. Reservations of campers at the 304 site campground stood cancelled for spraying insecticides into burrow holes of rodents by California Department of Health as rodents are the carriers of plague which is further spread by fleas. Humans rarely transmit plague.

Director of the state Health Department, Dr. Karen Smith said the disease was rare and posed a low risk to humans currently. But the public could be protected from the disease by eliminating the fleas.

In mid-July a child after camping with his family at the Crane Flat Campground in the Park fell ill with plague and is presently recovering at hospital. His family members were all fine. After treating Crane Flat with insecticide for four days the campground was reopened on Friday.

Symptoms of plague include chills, abdominal pain, fever, weakness, swollen lymph nodes and shortness of breath. When antibiotics are given immediately after infection plague can be treated and cured but delayed treatment can be deadly.

As per the Health Department 2005 and 2006 was when the last three cases of plague occurred and all the patients had survived.

California has seen 42 cases since 1970 of people contracting plague of which 9 died. Plague infected animals are encountered every year but health officials in the mountains and foothill regions of the state.

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