Tularemia - Health Center


By Refadoc, Posted on : Tuesday, 15 September 2015 - 10:46 am IST

Tularemia – Basic Overview

Tularemia is a very rare infectious disease which affects the skin, eyes, lymph nodes, lungs and other internal organs of the affected person. It is also known as Rabbit fever or Deer Fly fever. Tularemia is caused due to the bacterium Francisella tularensis. This disease is known to affect mammals and rodents. However, birds, reptiles and fishes too are known to suffer from this condition.

Tularemia spreads to humans via different routes such as insect bites and direct exposure to an infected animal. Since this disease is highly contagious and fatal, it can be treated with specific antibiotics upon early diagnosis.  

Causes of Tularemia 

Tularemia is not known to occur naturally amongst humans. However, it occurs naturally in rural areas amongst mammals and rodents which are infected with the F. Tularensis. The bacterium can survive for weeks in the soil and water. Tularemia has several modes of spreading from animals to humans. The following are the major modes of transmission:

  1. Insect Bites: Ticks and Deer Flies are the major carriers of the disease to the humans.
  2. Exposure to infected animals: Ulceroglandular Tularemia is caused due to either handling or being bitten by an infected animal. The bacteria tend to enter the skin via open wounds or cuts. They can also enter when a person rubs his eyes after touching an infected animal.
  3. Airborne Bacteria: The bacteria can become airborne during gardening or construction activities. Inhaling the bacteria can lead to Tularemia.
  4. Contaminated food and water: Tularemia can spread from eating undercooked meat of an infected animal or by drinking contaminated water. Pork, ground meat and game meat are the major causes of Tularemia. 

Signs and Symptoms of Tularemia:

People suffering from Tularemia tend to become sick within two to ten days of the initial infection. The symptoms of the disease vary on the different kinds of the disease.

Ulceroglandular Tularemia:

This is the most common kind of Tularemia. The signs and symptoms of the condition include:

  •       Formation of skin ulcers over the site of the infection
  •       Swelling and pain in the lymph glands
  •       Fever and chills
  •       Headaches and exhaustion

Glandular Tularemia:

People suffering from Glandular Tularemia show the same signs and symptoms as that of Ulceroglandular Tularemia.

Oculoglandular Tularemia:

This form of Tularemia affects the eyes. The major signs and symptoms of the condition are as follows:

  •       Pain in the eyes
  •       Redness in the eyes
  •       Swelling and discharge from the eyes
  •       Formation of an ulcer inside the eyelid

Oropharyngeal Tularemia:

This kind of Tularemia occurs by eating poorly cooked meat or by drinking contaminated water. This form directly affects the digestive system. The major signs and symptoms are as follows:

  •       Fever
  •       Soreness of the throat
  •       Formation of mouth ulcers
  •       Vomiting
  •       Diarrhoea

Pneumonic Tularemia:

This kind of Tularemia is common amongst the elderly. The major signs are as follows:

  •       Cough
  •       Pain in the chest
  •       Difficulty in breathing

Typhoidal Tularemia:

This is a very rare and serious form of Tularemia which shows the following signs and symptoms:

  •       High fever
  •       Extreme exhaustion
  •       Diarrhoea
  •       Nausea
  •       Enlargement of the spleen
  •       Enlargement of the liver
  •       Pneumonia

Tests and Diagnosis of Tularemia:

Since Tularemia is quite rare amongst humans and it shares it symptoms with many other conditions, it can be difficult to diagnose. However, doctors can check the person for the presence of F. Tularensis in the blood or the sputum sample which has been cultured in order to allow the growth of the bacteria. Tularemia can be easily identified with the antibodies which are formed in the body against the bacteria. A chest X Ray can also be done in order to look for signs of pneumonia. 

Treatment and Drugs for Tularemia:

Tularemia can be easily treated with the help of antibiotics such as Streptomycin and Gentamicin. These antibiotics can be given directly via an injection into the muscle or the vein. Depending on the kind of Tularemia, the doctors may prescribe oral antibiotics such as Oracea or Vibramycin.

Along with medications, therapy can also be prescribed against the complications such as Meningitis or Pneumonia. Most people become immune to the disease once they recover from the condition, however, in some people, the disease may reoccur.

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