Learn About Tularemia

What is the definition 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.

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What are the alternative names for Tularemia?

Deerfly fever; Rabbit fever; Pahvant Valley plague; Ohara disease; Yato-byo (Japan); Lemming fever

What are the 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.

What are the 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.

Symptoms include:

  • Fever, chills, sweating
  • Eye irritation (conjunctivitis, if the infection began in the eye)
  • Headache
  • Joint stiffness, muscle pain
  • Red spot on the skin, growing to become a sore (ulcer)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weight loss
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What are the current treatments for 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 a first choice.

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What is the outlook (prognosis) for Tularemia?

Tularemia is fatal in about 5% of untreated cases, and in less than 1% of treated cases.

What are the possible complications of Tularemia?

Tularemia may lead to these complications:

  • Bone infection (osteomyelitis)
  • Infection of the sac around the heart (pericarditis)
  • Infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord (meningitis)
  • Pneumonia
When should I contact a medical professional for Tularemia?

Call your health care provider if symptoms develop after a rodent bite, tick bite, or exposure to the flesh of a wild animal.

How do I prevent Tularemia?

Preventive measures include wearing gloves when skinning or dressing wild animals and staying away from sick or dead animals.

Deer ticks
Tick imbedded in the skin
What are the latest Tularemia Clinical Trials?
Leptospirosis, Tularaemia and Hepatitis E in a Rural Mountain Valley in the Alpine Region of Switzerland - A Cross-sectional Exploratory Seroprevalence Study

Summary: Human leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease caused by bacteria of the genus Leptospira. Due to its frequent inapparent course or mild severity with unspecific symptoms and limited availability of diagnostic laboratories the incidence of leptospirosis is likely to be underestimated. The hospital of Val Müstair is the major healthcare provider of a rural mountain valley in the canton of Graubünden/ Sw...

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A Longitudinal Phase 2 Study for the Continued Evaluation of the Safety and Immunogenicity of a Live Francisella Tularensis Vaccine, NDBR 101, Lot 4 in Healthy Adults At-Risk for Exposure to Francisella Tularensis

Summary: This study is designed to determine the safety and immunogenicity of a Live Francisella tularensis Vaccine

What are the Latest Advances for Tularemia?
Tularemia Proximal Interphalangeal Joint Septic Arthritis: A Case Report.
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Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date: March 15, 2021
Published By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Associate Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Associate in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

Auwaerter PG, Penn RL. Francisella tularensis (tularemia). In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 227.

Bloch KC, Schaffner W. Tularemia and other Francisella infections. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 295.