– Press release from Mono County Health Department

Avoid “All Creatures Great and Small”!*

*mice, ticks, fleas, squirrels, chipmunks, and mosquitoes – and of course – bears!

It has been an interesting summer so far in Mono County, and we are not talking about the weather or smoke. Here is a quick rundown, with links to more information:


Hantavirus: We have had 2 cases in one household in Mono County. One was briefly hospitalized, and both have recovered. This is very unusual in that this is the first household cluster ever reported in California. Given that the death rate from hantavirus infections is high (more than 25%), it is also unusual that neither person was seriously ill with their infection. Remember, it is all about contact with urine and feces from the deer mouse. See the following link for more information on protecting yourself: http://www.cdph.ca.gov/healthinfo/discond/Pages/HantavirusPulmonarySyndrome.aspx

Tick-borne relapsing fever (TBRF): We have had 3 laboratory confirmed cases of TBRF reported to us. There are also several other persons with similar illnesses who were not confirmed, but were also probably infected. Not all were Mono County residents, but most of the exposures were likely in Mono County. One was briefly hospitalized, and all are reported to be doing well. This is about soft ticks – which you will never see, and are not the hard ticks that can cause Lyme disease. See the following link for more info: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/HealthInfo/discond/Pages/TickBorneRelapsingFever.aspx

By the way, no one has ever identified that we have the right kind of hard tick in Mono County that carries Lyme disease. We collected over 60 ticks last summer, and did not find a single one!

Plague: We have not had any human cases yet, although the last person infected in California was in Mono County in 2006 – until this summer. The California Department of Public Health has been working with us to test dead squirrels, but so far, all tests have been negative. A teen from Los Angeles who had been camping at the Crane Flat area in Yosemite was recently diagnosed with plague, and is reported to be recovering. In the Western US, there have been 6 cases so far with 3 deaths. Stay away from squirrels, chipmunks, and other rodents. And remember a crucial fact – if you are killing rodents, their fleas need a blood meal, and will migrate to your dog. If you sleep with your dog, you may be the next meal! These fleas survive at high altitude also. See the following link: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/HEALTHINFO/DISCOND/Pages/Plague.aspx!

West Nile virus: So far, there have been 18 human cases reported in California this summer, from 6 counties, with one death. We do have the right kind of mosquito in Mono County that is an efficient carrier of the virus, but no cases so far. Mosquito pools are being collected and tested, and you are encouraged to report dead birds. (To report a dead bird, go to http://www.westnile.ca.gov/) With our wet summer so far, the mosquito population is still thriving longer than usual. See the following link for protective measures: http://www.westnile.ca.gov/wnv_faqs_basics.php


Travel history: If you have traveled out of the area in the last 30-60 days, especially out of the country, and you become ill, it is essential that you inform your healthcare provider at the time of your visit. Here is why:

If you have come from almost anywhere, but especially the Americas south of us (Mexico, the Carribean, Central and South America), you may have contracted an infection called “chikungunya” from a mosquito bite. The infection is much like dengue fever. This has happened to 265 Americans so far this year! You probably won’t die, but the pain is bad enough you may want to die! See:http://www.cdc.gov/chikungunya/index.html

And to really make things interesting, an alert Emergency Room physician recently diagnosed malaria in a returning traveler from Africa, and we have had 2 persons at risk for Ebola visit the Eastern Sierra during the time they were at risk for becoming sick.

All this keeps us alert, and thankful for every day of good health!

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