Fallen Leaf Campground, near Fallen Leaf Lake and South Lake Tahoe, will be closed for several days beginning Monday for pesticide treatments to minimize potential plague risk.
The temporary closure is being undertaken as a public safety precaution by the U.S. Forest Service’s Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, under direction of the California Department of Public Health.
The gate to the campground will close at 7 p.m. Monday, but campers must check out by noon, according to a Forest Service news release. The campground likely will reopen the morning of July 1. Officials said there is minimal risk to the public.
During the closure, officials will dust all rodent burrows with a pesticide to reduce the number of fleas that can carry plague. The pesticide to be used, DeltaDust, is a pyrethroid that has minimal effect to people or pets with direct contact, officials said. Pyrethroids are a manmade version of pryethrins, natural insecticides made from chrysanthemum flowers.
El Dorado County health officials have been notified by the state Department of Public Health of an increased risk of plague in the Fallen Leaf Campground area. Test results confirmed Monday revealed that four out of 15 rodents tested positive for exposure to plague.
El Dorado County officials issued a news release earlier this month after a flea sample from a yellow-pine chipmunk, collected from the southwest end of the campground, tested positive for plague. The Forest Service posted signs warning visitors that plague was detected, explaining the precautions to follow and encouraging campers to report any sick or dead rodents.
Plague is naturally present in many parts of California, including higher elevation areas of El Dorado County. It is spread by squirrels, chipmunks and other wild rodents and their fleas.
People may contract plague if bitten by an infected flea, or through close contact with an infected rodent or pet. Plague can be prevented by avoiding contact with wild rodents and by keeping pets away from rodent burrows. Risk of acquiring plague is very low when precautions are taken, officials said.
Symptoms of plague unusually show up within two weeks of exposure to an infected animal or flea, and include fever, nausea, weakness and swollen lymph nodes. It can be effectively treated with antibiotics if detected early.