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Plague-infected prairie dogs thwart Phish concert-goers camping plans

Phish, pictured onstage in 2009 at the 25th Annual Rock And Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, was forced to cancel its Labor Day concert due to plague-infected prairie dogs (AFP Photo/Michael Loccisano)

Los Angeles (AFP) - The jam-band Phish announced Tuesday that plague-infected -- yes, that plague -- prairie dog colonies had forced the cancellation of overnight camping and vending for its annual concert series near Denver.

The band will still play over the Labor Day holiday weekend but said in a statement that health officials overseeing Colorado's Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge urged precautionary measures like restricting parking and camping to prevent potential spread of the disease.

"We recognize the tremendous inconvenience this may cause for those who had planned on camping," said Phish, a rock band known for its improvisation and hardcore fan base.

Officials had closed parts of the 15,000-acre refuge starting in July, a statement from the US Fish & Wildlife Service said. Some were re-opened in recent days but several trails remain closed.

Today the plague can be treated with antibiotics but is best known for killing 60 percent of Europe's population during the Black Death of the Middle Ages.

The last epidemic in the United States was in the 1920s in Los Angeles.

Humans can contract the easily spreadable plague from fleas that transmit it from infected rodents, as well as from coming into contact with infected bodily fluids or by inhaling coughed-up bacteria.

Many dedicated Phish fans had decried the lack of information concerning the August 30-September 1 concerts in the lead-up to Tuesday's announcement: "People are already changing their plans. People are mad," fan Keegan Lauer told a local CNN affiliate of the confusion.

"People are Phish fans and Phish fans that are mad are really mad."