The father of a Georgia girl recovering from bubonic plague said Yosemite National Park had no warning signs in areas where he believes his daughter was infected from a flea bite.
Hannah Lindquist, 18, developed symptoms of the plague on Aug. 11, four days after the family had returned to Thomasville, Georgia, from visiting Glacier Point and Sentinel Dome in Yosemite.
She is the second Yosemite visitor reported this month to test positive for plague.
Hannah’s father, Ben Lindquist, said his daughter came close to dying, and on Wednesday he said people should be alerted who are traveling to Yosemite. “We need to let other people know, so it’s on their radar.”
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A National Forest Service official said Wednesday that there are no signs that plague is spreading in the park, but warning signs have now been posted at places where the Lindquist family visited “out of an abundance of caution.”
Earlier this month, the California Department of Public Health released information about a Southern California girl who tested positive for plague and who had camped at Crane Flat Campground in Yosemite. On Tuesday, they said they were investigating a possible plague case in a person from Georgia, who they did not name. Officials said Wednesday that they are not investigating any other cases of plague associated with travel to Yosemite.
The park placed warning signs at Crane Flat and Tuolumne Meadows.
Plague is a bacterial disease carried by squirrels, chipmunks and other wild rodents and their fleas. When rodents die of the plague, their fleas carry the infection to people and other animals. Both campgrounds have been treated for fleas. Crane Flat is open and Tuolumne Meadows should open later this week.
However, the Lindquists did not visit Crane Flat or Tuolumne Meadows Campground.
No dead rodents have been found at the sites visited by the Lindquist family, said Danielle Buttke, a National Forest Service veterinary epidemiologist who is in Yosemite to investigate the plague.
It’s not a certainty that Hannah was infected in Yosemite. The family was at Bass Lake, hiked the Lewis Creek Trail near Oakhurst and visited Nelder Grove in the Sierra National Forest. The Forest Service is doing environmental investigations in all areas, inside and outside the park, that the Lindquist family visited, Buttke said. “We do know all areas of the Sierra Nevada and foothills are at risk for plague.”
Lindquist said Hannah’s doctors took a biopsy and she tested positive for bubonic plague. Doctors told him that the incubation period of the plague – four to six days – led them to believe Hannah had been infected during the two days the family spent at Yosemite, he said.
The family would not have associated the disease with Hannah’s symptoms except that a relative had sent a news clipping about the young Southern California girl who tested positive for plague, he said.
With that knowledge, he and his wife suggested that doctors test for plague, and antibiotic treatment was started. “If she had not gotten the treatment when she did, she would have died,” he said.
Lindquist said there were no plague notices at Glacier Point and Sentinel Dome when his family was there on the first week of August. “Of all the signs that were up there, that is not something we saw,” he said. “And they certainly did not make this an issue.”
Hannah was the only one of 14 people in the family group who became ill, Lindquist said.
She spent a week in the hospital and came home Tuesday. She remains in a lot of pain, he said. “She’s been told that for several weeks she will have painful headaches and body pains.”
Hannah is a college freshman who is a pre-medicine major, he said. Doctors have advised her to take a medical leave this semester.
If not treated:
▪ Bacteria can spread through the bloodstream, causing blood poisoning or septicemia.
▪ Bacteria can infect the lungs, causing a secondary case of pneumonic plague.
▪ Rarely, it can progress to meningitis – an inflammation of the brain and spinal cord membranes.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention