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Tularemia is a rare infectious disease that can attack the skin, eyes and lungs. Fewer than 200 cases of tularemia are reported annually in the United States ï¿½" mainly in western and south-central states.
Tularemia spreads to humans through several routes, including insect bites and direct exposure to an infected animal. Highly contagious and potentially fatal if not treated, tularemia has been identified as a possible bioweapon. If diagnosed early, doctors can usually treat tularemia effectively with antibiotics.
It is a serious infectious disease caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis. F. tularensis is a small gram-negative non-motile coccobacillus. The bacterium has several subspecies with varying degrees of virulence.
The most important of those is F. tularensis tularensis (Type A), which is found in lagomorphs in North America and is highly virulent for humans and domestic rabbits. F. tularensis palaearctica (Type B) occurs mainly in aquatic rodents (beavers, muskrats) in North America and in hares and small rodents in northern Eurasia.
Causes of tularemia: Humans can contract tularemia in the following ways: Direct contact, through a break in the skin, with an infected animal or its carcass The bite of an infected tick, horsefly, or mosquito Eating infected meat (rare) How is tularemia spread? Many routes of human exposure to tularemia are known to exist. The common routes include inoculation of the skin or mucous membranes with blood or tissue while handling infected animals, bites from infected deer flies or ticks, or handling or eating insufficiently cooked rabbit meat. Less common means of spread are drinking contaminated water, inhaling dust from contaminated soil or handling contaminated pelts or paws of animals. Symptom of tularemia: The symptoms start suddenly 1 to 10 daysï¿½"usually 2 to 4 daysï¿½"after contact with the bacterium.
Initial symptoms include headaches, chills, nausea, vomiting, a fever of up to 104Â° F, and severe exhaustion. Extreme weakness, recurring chills, and profuse drenching sweats develop.
In 24 to 48 hours, an inflamed blister appears at the infection siteï¿½"usually the finger, arm, eye, or roof of the mouthï¿½"except in the glandular and typhoidal types of tularemia. The blister rapidly fills with pus and opens to form a sore.
Another possible symptoms include skin ulcers, swollen and painful lymph glands, inflamed eyes, sore throat, mouth sores, diarrhea or pneumonia. If the bacteria are inhaled, symptoms can include abrupt onset of fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, joint pain, dry cough, and progressive weakness. People with pneumonia can develop chest pain, difficulty breathing, bloody sputum, and respiratory failure.
Tularemia can be fatal if the person is not treated with appropriate antibiotics.
Treatment of tularemia:
The goal of treatment is to cure the infection with antibiotic treatment. Streptomycin and tetracycline are commonly used to treat this infection. Once daily gentamycin treatment has been tried with excellent results as an alternative therapy to streptomycin, though only a few cases have been studied to date.
Several precautions can protect individuals from tularemia. Avoid drinking, bathing, swimming or working in untreated water where infection may be common among wild animals. Use impervious gloves when skinning or handling animals, especially rabbits. Cook the meat of wild rabbits and rodents thoroughly. Avoid being bitten by deer flies and ticks.