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You might think that the bubonic plague is so 14th Century, but a squirrel recently found dead just outside of Los Angeles County begs to differ. The rodent was found covered in fleas near a campground, and it tested positive for the infamous Black Death disease. The little guy isn’t the first case of bubonic plague this year – last month, two dogs in New Mexico also tested positive for the plague.

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The Environmental Health Department’s Dr. Mark Dimenna confirmed that the critter did in fact have the same strain that in the 1300s was responsible for wiping out 200 million people across Europe. In fact, the original plague has never gone completely away, but is no longer considered a deadly disease amongst humans, as it is easily treatable with antibiotics, which were unavailable during medieval days.

The disease wasn’t introduced to North America until long after the European plague had passed, making its first appearance on US shores in 1900. Since then, it has mostly affected rodents in the western part of the United States. The disease is spread from rodent to rodent by fleas. Humans have also been susceptible to the disease, with 999 cases occurring from 1990 to 2010 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As most diseases, it can be deadly if untreated, inflaming the lymph nodes and causing bubonic bumps, fever, chills or extreme weakness. The disease can spread throughout the body in just six days, and become contagious through the air once it reaches the lungs. However, it can also be easily treated with antibiotics.

Three campgrounds near where the bubonic squirrel was found have been vacated and treated for flea extermination. Although this appearance of the plague may be unsettling, officials have been clear that locals shouldn’t fear for a resurgence of the Black Death in LA.

Via The Verge

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