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Tularemia: Symptoms, Causes, Prevention, Treatment

Synopsis: Information, testing, and diagnosing Tularemia, a rare infectious disease that can attack the eyes, skin, lungs, lymph nodes and possibly internal organs.1

Author: Thomas C. Weiss Contact: Disabled World (www.disabled-world.com)

Published: 2014-09-12 Updated: 2020-12-20

Key Points:

Tularemia spreads to people through a number of ways, to include direct exposure to an infected animal and insect bite.

Anyone from any age group may develop tularemia. Pursuing certain activities, occupations, or living in certain areas increase a person's risk of the disease.

Main Digest

Tularemia is a form of rare infectious disease that can attack a person's eyes, skin, lungs, lymph nodes and possibly even other internal organs. Often times referred to as, "rabbit fever," or, "deer fly fever," tularemia is caused by the bacterium, "Francisella tularensis." The disease largely affects mammals; particularly rabbits, rodents and hares - although it may also infect reptiles, birds and fish.

Tularemia spreads to people through a number of ways, to include direct exposure to an infected animal and insect bite. The disease is highly contagious and has the potential to be fatal. Tularemia can usually be treated effectively with specific antibiotics if a person is diagnosed early enough.

Symptoms of Tularemia

The majority of people who have been exposed to tularemia and become ill usually experience symptoms within 2-10 days. A number of types of tularemia exist and which type a person gets is dependent upon how and where the bacteria enter their body. In most instances, the bacteria enter through a person's mucous membranes or skin, although they may also be eaten or inhaled. Each form of tularemia presents its own set of symptoms.

If you think you might have been exposed to tularemia, particularly if you have handled a wild animal or been bitten by a tick in an area where tularemia is found and are now experiencing a fever, swollen glands or skin ulcers, it is important for you to visit a doctor as soon as you can. If you test positive for a form of tularemia, you will need to begin antibiotic treatment promptly.

Causes of Tularemia

Tularemia does not occur naturally in people and is not known to pass from person to person. The disease does; however, occur globally - particularly in rural areas, because many birds, mammals, fish and insects are infected with F. tularensis. The organism has the ability to live for weeks in water, soil and dead animals.

Unlike some infectious diseases that spread from animals to people through one single route, tularemia has a number of modes of transmission. How a person gets the disease usually determines the type and severity of their symptoms. Generally, a person can get tularemia through some different ways:

Risk Factors for Tularemia

Anyone from any age group may develop tularemia. Pursuing certain activities, occupations, or living in certain areas increase a person's risk of the disease. For example; In America, people who live in or visit areas of Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas might be at increased risk due to the concentration of ticks in those areas. If a person has certain job or pursues certain hobbies, they may also be at increased risk of tularemia. Jobs and hobbies such as the following may increase a person's risk:

Complications

Tularemia presents a number of complications. It may be fatal if left untreated. The complications of tularemia include the following:

Testing For and Diagnosing Tularemia

Due to the fact that tularemia is rare and because it shares symptoms with other forms of diseases, it might be hard to diagnose. Doctors may check for F. tularensis in a person's sputum or blood sample that is cultured and encourage the growth of the bacteria. Yet the preferred method of diagnosing tularemia is to identify antibodies to the bacteria in a sample of a person's blood. A doctor is also likely to order a chest X-ray in order to look for signs of pneumonia.

Treatment

Tularemia can be effectively treated with antibiotics such as gentamicin or streptomycin, administered through injection directly into a person's vein or muscle. Depending upon the form of tularemia a person experiences, a doctor might prescribe oral antibiotics such as doxycycline instead. A person with tularemia will also receive therapy for any complications such as pneumonia or meningitis. Generally, a person should be immune to tularemia after they have recovered, although some people might experience a recurrence of the disease or reinfection.

Prevention

Attempts to develop a vaccine for tularemia have so far been unsuccessful. If you live in an area where tularemia is present, or work in a high-risk job, the following measures may help to reduce your chances of infection:

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Cite Page: Journal: Disabled World. Language: English (U.S.). Author: Thomas C. Weiss. Electronic Publication Date: 2014-09-12 - Revised: 2020-12-20. Title: Tularemia: Symptoms, Causes, Prevention, Treatment, Source: <a href=https://www.disabled-world.com/health/tularemia.php>Tularemia: Symptoms, Causes, Prevention, Treatment</a>. Retrieved 2021-03-04, from https://www.disabled-world.com/health/tularemia.php - Reference: DW#48-10576.