Print-Friendly
Bookmarks
bookmarks-menu

Tularemia

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

 

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.

Causes

 

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

 

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

 

Exams and Tests

 

Tests for the condition include:

  • Blood culture for the bacteria
  • 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

 

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.

 

Outlook (Prognosis)

 

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

 

Possible Complications

 

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 to Contact a Medical Professional

 

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

 

Prevention

 

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

 

 

References

Penn RL. Francisella tularensis (tularemia). In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Disease, Updated Edition. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 229.

Schaffner W. Tularemia and other Francisella infections. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 311.

Text only

 
  • Deer ticks

    Deer ticks - illustration

    Diseases are often carried by ticks, including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Colorado Tick Fever, Lyme disease, and tularemia. Less common or less frequent diseases include typhus, Q-fever, relapsing fever, viral encephalitis, hemorrhagic fever, and babesiosis.

    Deer ticks

    illustration

  • Ticks

    Ticks - illustration

    There are many species of ticks. Of these, a large proportion are capable of carrying disease. Diseases carried by ticks include Lyme disease, Erlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Colorado Tick Fever, tularemia, typhus, hemorrhagic fever, and viral encephalitis. (Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

    Ticks

    illustration

  • Tick imbedded in the skin

    Tick imbedded in the skin - illustration

    This is a close-up photograph of a tick embedded in the skin. Ticks are important because they can carry diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, Colorado tick fever, Lyme disease, and others.

    Tick imbedded in the skin

    illustration

  • Antibodies

    Antibodies - illustration

    Antigens are large molecules (usually proteins) on the surface of cells, viruses, fungi, bacteria, and some non-living substances such as toxins, chemicals, drugs, and foreign particles. The immune system recognizes antigens and produces antibodies that destroy substances containing antigens.

    Antibodies

    illustration

  • Bacteria

    Bacteria - illustration

    Bacterial infections can lead to the formation of pus, or to the spread of the bacteria in the blood.

    Bacteria

    illustration

    • Deer ticks

      Deer ticks - illustration

      Diseases are often carried by ticks, including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Colorado Tick Fever, Lyme disease, and tularemia. Less common or less frequent diseases include typhus, Q-fever, relapsing fever, viral encephalitis, hemorrhagic fever, and babesiosis.

      Deer ticks

      illustration

    • Ticks

      Ticks - illustration

      There are many species of ticks. Of these, a large proportion are capable of carrying disease. Diseases carried by ticks include Lyme disease, Erlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Colorado Tick Fever, tularemia, typhus, hemorrhagic fever, and viral encephalitis. (Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

      Ticks

      illustration

    • Tick imbedded in the skin

      Tick imbedded in the skin - illustration

      This is a close-up photograph of a tick embedded in the skin. Ticks are important because they can carry diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, Colorado tick fever, Lyme disease, and others.

      Tick imbedded in the skin

      illustration

    • Antibodies

      Antibodies - illustration

      Antigens are large molecules (usually proteins) on the surface of cells, viruses, fungi, bacteria, and some non-living substances such as toxins, chemicals, drugs, and foreign particles. The immune system recognizes antigens and produces antibodies that destroy substances containing antigens.

      Antibodies

      illustration

    • Bacteria

      Bacteria - illustration

      Bacterial infections can lead to the formation of pus, or to the spread of the bacteria in the blood.

      Bacteria

      illustration

    Tests for Tularemia

     
     

    Review Date: 1/3/2019

    Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant 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.

    The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
    adam.com

     
     
     

     

     

    A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.
    Content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.