A squirrel in the Doan Valley Campground on Palomar Mountain has tested positive for the plague.

It’s the first case of the plague found in the county this year, though county health officials say the disease turns up annually in higher elevations.

“On an average year, we’ll at least get a few (cases),” said Chris Conlan, supervising vector ecologist for the county’s Department of Environmental Health. “It’s naturally transmitted from flea to squirrel. There’s enough of it out there that it sustains itself at a very low level.”

Humans have never acquired the disease in San Diego County. Still, health officials remind hikers and campers to avoid handling or feeding chipmunks or other rodents.

ROB DAVIS

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