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Key Information About Tularemia

Updated on July 14, 2019
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Srikanth is passionate about helping people improve their quality of life.

Tularemia, which is also known as rabbit fever or deer fly fever, is a fatal bacterial disease. It can cause serious illness in both people and pets. It is a zoonosis disease of wide variety of wild birds and mammals.

Francisella Tularensis (Colorized in Blue)

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Wikimedia Commons | Source

Causes

Tularemia is caused by gram negative bacteria known as Francisella tularensis. This bacteria can survive in soil, water, and dead animals for weeks.

Most cases occur from being bitten by flies or ticks carrying the bacterium or from exposure to tissue from animal infected with the bacteria.

Drinking contaminated water, inhaling contaminated aerosols and laboratory exposure are other ways people can get infected.

"The tick species known to carry the bacteria prefer hares and rodents, but will occasionally bite dogs, cats, or people," said Dr Kimberlee Beckmen, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game veterinarian.

"Even the saliva from the dog's mouth, or even a scratch from a cat who has handled the sick hare can then transmit the bacteria to a person even before the dog or cat get sick," said Dr Beckmen.

Snowshoe hare is the most common carrier of the ticks that spread Francisella tularensis.

Snowshoe Hare

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Wikimedia Commons | Source

Bites from infected ticks and the handling of infected rabbits are responsible for most tularemia cases.

Symptoms

Disease
Symptoms
Ulceroglandular tularemia
Skin ulcer, painful lymph glands, swollen lymph glands, chills, fever, headache and fatigue.
Glandular tularemia
Painful lymph glands, swollen lymph glands, chills, fever, headache and fatigue.
Oculoglandular tularemia
Eye pain, red eyes, eye swelling, ulcer on the inside of the eyelid, and sensitivity to light.
Oropharyngeal tularemia
Fever, throat pain, mouth ulcers, vomiting, diarrhea, inflamed tonsils and swollen lymph nodes in the neck.
Typhoidal tularemia
High fever, fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea, enlarged spleen, enlarged liver and pneumonia.
Pneumonic tularemia
Dry cough, chest pain and breathing problems.

A Tularemia Lesion

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Wikimedia Commons | Source

Cady's Case

In April 2014, 13-year-old Cady Stortzum's father noticed something attached to her head.

It was a tick, which he removed. That tick bite eventually led to an ulcer on her head, which was the first sign that something was wrong with Cady.

Her lymph nodes soon swelled up, which in conjunction with severe pain, made it clear that she needed help.

After weeks of misdiagnosis, doctors at Children’s (hospital in Omaha) diagnosed he with tularemia.

Treatment

Streptomycin, gentamicin, doxycycline, and ciprofloxacin are some antibiotics used to treat tularemia.

F tularensis strains generally are resistant to beta-lactam antibiotics, owing in part to beta-lactamase activity.

Outbreaks of the disease tend to be smaller events, clustered around wild-life exposures or inhalation of contaminated dust/aerosols.

Prevention

No vaccine against tularemia is available to the general public. However, the risk of infection can be reduced by following these precautions.

Use insect repellents that contain DEET, picaridin or IR3535. Wear long pants, long sleeves and long socks to prevent tick bites.

Avoid contact with untreated water where infection is common in wild animals. Never drink untreated water.

Avoid touching wild animal tissue. Use impervious gloves when skinning or handling animals, especially rabbits. Cook the meat of wild rabbits and rodents thoroughly.

Use a plastic bag when taking a hare away from your pet. Bury dead hare deep enough where pets or other animals can not reach them. Wash hands thoroughly afterward.

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2019 Srikanth R

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