An “avid walker” has tested positive for the plague in northern California. It’s believed the person contracted the plague while walking their dog, and may have been bitten by a plague-carrying flea.
The California Department of Public Health says the South Lake Tahoe resident is under the care of medical professionals and is recovering at home. No other information was provided about the person.
"Plague is naturally present in many parts of California, including higher elevation areas of El Dorado County,” said El Dorado County Public Health Officer, Dr. Nancy Williams in a press release. “Human cases of plague are extremely rare but can be very serious."
The last human case reported in California was in 2015 when two people were exposed to infected rodents at Yosemite National Park, and before that, the last reported human case in the state was in 2006.
In fact, the CDC reports there are roughly seven human plague cases each year. Patients can range in age from infants to well into their 90s.
The plague first came to the United States in 1900 on rat-infested steamships, bringing the disease from other locations around the world. Epidemics, at first, happened in port cities, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the last urban-area outbreak happened in Los Angeles between 1924-1925.
The disease transitioned from urban rats to rural rodents (including squirrels), and has become entrenched in many sparsely populated areas of the western part of the country. The two areas with the most human cases in the last 50 years are: California/Nevada and New Mexico/Arizona/Colorado.