When you’re out camping in the mountains, you need to know how to avoid getting the plague. The deadly virus made a comeback this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control, which noticed an uptick of humans infected with the plague.
The plague is usually found in the western mountains.
Many people who contracted the plague got it when camping and living in places like Yosemite National Park and Colorado. You don’t need to stop camping, but you do need to know how to avoid getting the plague if you want to live to tell about your epic adventure. Here’s how to do it:
How to Avoid Getting the Plague
The plague is spread by infected fleas so squirrels, mice, rats, rabbits . . . dead or alive all of those cute little rodent creatures are harboring fleas that carry the deadly disease.
Stay away from critters. They can carry the Black Death!
Even deer and other larger wildlife can be hosts to plague-infected fleas. Only about eight Americans a year get the plague, but if just one flea leaves an infected animal and hops onto you for a tasty meal, you could be next.
When you’re out in the woods, don’t feed the bears, squirrels or other cute cuddly little creatures that beg for food at your picnic table. Watch them from afar to avoid getting the plague.
Wear insect repellent. Lots of it.
The plague is found mostly in the mountains and foothills of the West. According to the CDC, most human cases in the United States occur in two regions:
- Northern New Mexico, Northern Arizona, and Southern Colorado
- California, Southern Oregon, and Far Western Nevada
You don’t need to avoid going to these gorgeous mountain destinations, but when you’re there be smart and wear long pants with the legs tucked into socks and boots. Douse yourself with a strong flea repellent when hiking and make sure your pets have flea protection too if they’re along for the adventure.
Use extra care on hunting trips. If you found that prized buck on a hunting trip, you’ll need to take even more precautions while field dressing the animal. The CDC advises waring gloves if you are handling or skinning potentially infected animals to prevent contact between your skin and the plague bacteria.
Know the warning signs.
Early treatment for the plague is critical. The plague comes in three different flavors: bubonic, septicemic, and pneumonic. All three are rare and if caught early enough, treatable. About 80 percent of human plague cases are bubonic, which has two major kinds of symptoms according to the CDC:
- Sudden onset of fever, headache, chills, and weakness
- One or more swollen, tender and painful lymph nodes (called buboes). The swelling is caused from the flea bite. Bacteria will multiply in the lymph node closest to where the bacteria entered the body. Without a strong course of antibiotics, the bacteria can spread and turn into septicemic plague, like what happened to this Colorado teen.
If you’ve been camping and think you might have been exposed to the virus, get medical help fast. Any delay can mean the difference between life and death.