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Squirrel With Plague Found at Navy Base

November 02, 2000|ANNA GORMAN

A ground squirrel carrying bubonic plague bacteria has been found at Ventura County's Navy base, but no humans have been affected.

"We don't think there is a major public health threat," said Dr. Gail Simpson of the communicable disease department of the county health department. "We don't want people to panic."

There have not been any cases of people in Ventura County infected with the plague bacteria in the last decade, Simpson said.

Naval Base Ventura County at Point Mugu has posted warning signs and issued precautions to residents and employees. Navy officials also plan to hold a veterinary clinic to check animals and to begin an intensive rodent control and flea eradication program.

"We're concerned about it," base spokeswoman Teri Reid said. "But this is the first time it's been found at Point Mugu."

The plague primarily affects rodents, and is spread by fleas and contact with infected animals. The plague bacteria are endemic to Ventura County and commonly occur in the foothills and foggy coastal belt.

A base employee noticed sick and dead squirrels on the Point Mugu grounds, and laboratory tests were conducted on 10 squirrels. The bacteria only appeared in one. Officials are continuing to trap and test additional squirrels.

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