Overview Of Tularemia
Tularemia is a bacterial infection in wild rodents. The bacteria are passed to humans through contact with tissue from the infected animal. The bacteria can also be passed by ticks, biting flies, and mosquitoes.
Commonly Associated With
Deerfly fever; Rabbit fever; Pahvant Valley plague; Ohara disease; Yato-byo (Japan); Lemming fever
Causes Of Tularemia
Tularemia is caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis.
Humans can get the disease through:
- A bite from an infected tick, horsefly, or mosquito
- Breathing in infected dirt or plant material
- Direct contact, through a break in the skin, with an infected animal or its dead body (most often a rabbit, muskrat, beaver, or squirrel)
- Eating infected meat (rare)
- The disorder most commonly occurs in North America and parts of Europe and Asia. In the United States, this disease is found more often in Missouri, South Dakota, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. Although outbreaks can occur in the United States, they are rare.
Some people may develop pneumonia after breathing in infected dirt or plant material. This infection has been known to occur on Martha’s Vineyard (Massachusetts), where bacteria are present in rabbits, raccoons, and skunks.
Symptoms Of Tularemia
Symptoms develop 3 to 5 days after exposure. The illness usually starts suddenly. It may continue for several weeks after symptoms begin.
- Fever, chills, sweating
- Eye irritation (conjunctivitis, if the infection began in the eye)
- Joint stiffness, muscle pain
- Red spot on the skin, growing to become a sore (ulcer)
- Shortness of breath
- Weight loss
Exams & Tests
Tests for the condition include:
- Blood culture for the bacteria
- A blood test measuring the body’s immune response (antibodies) to the infection (serology for tularemia)
- Chest x-ray
- Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test of a sample from an ulcer
Treatment Of Tularemia
The goal of treatment is to cure the infection with antibiotics.
The antibiotics streptomycin and tetracycline are commonly used to treat this infection. Another antibiotic, gentamicin, has been tried as an alternative to streptomycin. Gentamicin seems to be very effective, but it has been studied in only a small number of people because this is a rare disease. The antibiotics tetracycline and chloramphenicol can be used alone, but are not usually the first choice.