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J Vector Ecol. 2010 Jun;35(1):1-12. doi: 10.1111/j.1948-7134.2010.00021.x.

Plague studies in California: a review of long-term disease activity, flea-host relationships and plague ecology in the coniferous forests of the Southern Cascades and northern Sierra Nevada mountains.

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California Department of Public Health, Vector-Borne Disease Section, 2135 Civic Center Dr., Redding, CA 96001, USA.


We review 28 years of long-term surveillance (1970-1997) for plague activity among wild rodents from ten locations within three coniferous forest habitat types in the northern Sierra Nevada and the Southern Cascade mountains of northeastern California. We identify rodent hosts and their fleas and document long-term plague activity in each habitat type. The highest seroprevalence for Yersinia pestis occurred in the chipmunks, Tamias senex and T. quadrimaculatus, and the pine squirrel, Tamiasciurus douglasii. The most commonly infected fleas were Ceratophyllus ciliatus and Eumolpianus eumolpi from chipmunks and Oropsylla montana and O. idahoensis from ground squirrels. Serological surveillance demonstrated that populations of T. senex, T. quadrimaculatus and T. douglasii are moderately resistant to plague, survive infection, and are, therefore, good sentinels for plague activity. Recaptured T. senex and T. quadrimaculatus showed persistence of plague antibodies and evidence of re-infection over a two year period. These rodent species, their fleas, and the ecological factors common to the coniferous forest habitats likely promote the maintenance of plague foci in northeastern California.

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