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A girl from Los Angeles has been admitted to the hospital
and diagnosed with the plague after a recent trip to Yosemite National Park in
California. The news of her diagnosis comes after the deaths of two Colorado
residents, also from the plague.
The plague is an unusual disease in the U.S., but there are
an average of seven cases reported every year. People can die from it if they
aren't treated. An unidentified Colorado resident died Wednesday from the
disease, and a 16-year-old boy, also in Colorado, died in June from a
hard-to-treat septicemic infection.
There are three forms of the plague: bubonic, septicemic and
pneumonic. The bubonic plague affects the lymph glands, and septicemic is a
body-wide infection that happens if the plague isn't treated early enough.
Pneumonic plague is the only form that can spread from person to person.
People are most often infected with the plague from rodents,
so California officials are posting extra signs in parks warning visitors not
to feed the wildlife or approach dead animals.
"Although this is a rare disease, people should protect
themselves from infection by avoiding any contact with wild rodents," state health officer Dr. Karen Smith said in a statement. "Never feed
squirrels, chipmunks or other rodents in picnic or campground areas, and never
touch sick or dead rodents. Protect your pets from fleas and keep them away from
Pets can also carry the plague after being infected by fleas
or contact with wild animals. A dog in Colorado had the plague, and
doctors think that at least four people were infected. Three cats in Colorado
were also diagnosed with the plague, but they did not infect anyone.
The plague can often feel like the flu. Symptoms can include
severe headaches, chills, nausea and sudden fevers.