SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A squirrel trapped on Palomar Mountain during routine monitoring tested positive for plague, the first such discovery this year, the 
San Diego County Department of Environmental Health reported Thursday. 
Positive tests for plague among Palomar Mountain critters are not unusual as the weather warms up, and the latest finding serves as a reminder for campers and hikers to not touch squirrels, chipmunks or other animals, according to the county.
"You should never feed or play with squirrels when you see them outdoors," said DEH Director Elizabeth Pozzebon. "If you're camping, don't set up your tents near squirrel burrows. And if you find dead squirrels, report them to park rangers."
Plague can be spread to humans by fleas, which feed on an infected animal and then bite people. Humans can also get infected if they handle tissue or body fluids of infected animals, according to the county.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says modern antibiotics are effective in treating plague, but people who don't receive medication can become very sick or die. Symptoms include a sudden onset of fever, chills and tender swollen lymph nodes.
People who become sick within a week of visiting an area known to have plague are urged to seek medical help immediately.
The county also said people who go into rural mountain areas should also keep their dogs on a leash, apply flea control or leave their pets at home.
More information about plague monitoring is available at the county Vector Control Program, at (858) 694-2888, or on its website at