Last updated: 04:23 PM ET, Sun August 16 2015

Calamitous Season Continues at Yosemite With Camper Deaths and New Plague Scare

Impacting Travel | Michael Isenbek | August 16, 2015

Calamitous Season Continues at Yosemite With Camper Deaths and New Plague Scare

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Calamities continue to haunt Yosemite National Park’s 2015 summer tourist season. A falling tree limb has killed two young campers and another plague scare is causing the temporary closure of a popular campground at the iconic California destination, according to the Associated Press.

Two juveniles, solely described as under 18, were sleeping at the popular Upper Pines Campground near the center of the park when a large black oak limb fell on their tent, Yosemite spokesperson Scott Gediman said to the AP.

Responding to 911 calls, rangers arrived, but both campers were dead, Gediman said.

The cause of the falling limb and its precise size were not immediately disclosed, the AP said.

Large falling tree limbs are common at Yosemite, the AP pointed out, and on occasion they have taken lives. The AP said the last tree branch-related fatality was  

in 2012 when one fell on a park concession employee’s tent cabin. Another notable fatal branch incident was in 1985 when a 25-foot branch fell on an open-air tram, killing two tourists and injuring nine.

Meanwhile the plague has reared its ugly head once again. This latest action against the disease was spurred by the discovery of two squirrels that had died of the plague in the area of the Tuolumne Meadows Campground, park officials said to the AP.

The California Department of Health (DOH) said Friday via the AP that Tuolumne Meadows will close from noon Monday to noon Friday while the area is treated with flea-killing insecticide. Rodent “burrow holes” were cited as a specific target by the DOH.

Visitor reservations were canceled at the 304-site campground, the DOH told the AP.

Spread by fleas and carried by rodents, person-to-person transmission of the disease is rare, the AP said.

"Although this is a rare disease, and the current risk to humans is low, eliminating the fleas is the best way to protect the public from the disease," said Dr. Karen Smith, director of the state Health Department to the AP.

Plague's symptoms, as per the AP, may include fever, chills, weakness, abdominal pain, and sometimes shortness of breath and swollen lymph nodes. If antibiotics are administered soon after infection, it can be treated and cured, but is deadly if treatment is delayed.

The first plague incident occurred in mid-July at Yosemite, according to the AP, when a child fell ill with the disease while camping with his family at Crane Flat Campground. That particular campground reopened Friday after a four-day insecticide treatment. The child is convalescing in a hospital and none of the other family members became sick.

The state health department said, via the AP that the last three cases of human plague in the state happened in 2005 and 2006 and all three patients survived. The department added that plague-infected animals are found in California every year, usually in the mountains and foothills.

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