What is tularemia?
Tularemia is caused by a bacterium called Francisella tularensis. This bacterium can cause infection in both animals and man.
Where are F. tularensis bacteria found?
Sources of F. tularensis include approximately 100 species of wild mammals (e.g., rabbits, muskrats, and deer); at least nine species of domestic animals (e.g., sheep, cattle, and cats); blood-sucking arthropods (e.g., ticks, deerflies, and mosquitoes) that bite wild and domestic animals; and water contaminated by infected animals. In the United States, rabbits and ticks are the major sources of infection.
How does this bacteria spread?
The most common means of spread include contamination of the skin or mucous membranes with blood or tissue while handling or eating insufficiently cooked rabbit meat or through the bite of ticks. Less common include drinking contaminated water, inhaling dust from contaminated soil, or handling contaminated skin or paws of infected animals.
Who gets tularemia?
Hunters or other people who spend a great deal of time outdoors are at greater risk of exposure to tularemia than people with other occupational or recreational interests.
What are the symptoms of tularemia?
People with an infected skin wound may develop a lesion and swollen glands. Eating food or water with the bacteria may produce a throat infection, intestinal pain, diarrhea and vomiting. Inhalation of the organism may produce a fever alone or combined with a pneumonia-like illness.
How soon do symptoms appear?
The symptoms generally appear between 1-14 days but usually 3-5 days after exposure.
What is the treatment for tularemia?
Certain antibiotics such as streptomycin or gentamycin are effective in treating tularemia. Other medications such as tetracycline or chloramphenicol may also be effective.
How can tularemia be prevented?
Rubber gloves should be worn when skinning or handling animals, especially rabbits. Wild rabbit and other game meat should be cooked thoroughly before eating and avoid drinking untreated water. Avoid bites of flies, mosquitoes and ticks and check for ticks when coming indoors. Children should be told not to handle any sick or dead animals.
This fact sheet is for informational purposes only. It should not be used for self-diagnosis or as a substitute for consultation with a health care provider. If you think that you may have this infection, or have questions about the disease described above, you should consult your health care provider.
For additional information on this disease, visit the Centers or Disease Control and Prevention website.
To contact the Epidemiology and Emerging Infections Program, please call 860-509-7994.