Tularemia is a rare bacterial infection. The effects of the infection will depend on where the exposure occurs. It can be deadly if not treated.

  • Causes

    Tularemia is caused by specific bacteria. It is normally found in small animals, such as mice and rabbits. The bacteria can pass to humans through:

    • Bites of infected animals, ticks, or deer flies.
    • Contact with an infected animal's tissues or contaminated water, food, or soil. Can enter the body through the lungs, eyes, mouth, nose, or skin.

    The infection does not pass between people.

  • Definition

    Tularemia is a rare bacterial infection. The effects of the infection will depend on where the exposure occurs. It can be deadly if not treated.

  • Diagnosis

    The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. You will be asked about possible sources of exposure. A physical exam will also be done.

    Your doctor may look for signs of the infection through:

    • Examining body fluids
    • Culture of body fluids—to check for bacteria
    • Skin test to check for an immune response
    • Blood test—to detect antibodies to the bacteria

    chest x-ray
    may also be done if there are problems with your lungs.

  • Prevention

    Measures to prevent the disease include:

    • Do not handle sick or dead animals.
    • Wear gloves, mask, and goggles if skinning or butchering animals.
    • Completely cook game meats.

    • Take precautions if you live in an area with ticks or deer flies:

      • Wear protective clothing.
      • Use tick repellant.
      • Check skin often for ticks.
      • Do not touch a tick with your hand.
    • Follow precautions when working in a laboratory.

  • Risk Factors

    Factors that increase your risk of tularemia include:

    • Hunting, trapping, or butchering infected animals
    • Working with infected animals or their tissue
    • Working in a laboratory with the bacteria
    • Biological terrorism
    • Eating meat from an infected animal
    • Being bitten by an infected mosquito or tick

  • Symptoms

    Symptoms usually occur 3-5 days after exposure. The symptoms will depend on where the bacteria entered the body, the type and amount of bacteria you were exposed to, and your immune system.

    Pneumonic symptoms (lung problems):

    • Fever
    • Chills
    • Fatigue
    • Headache
    • Body aches
    • Sore throat
    • Cough
    • Burning sensation or pain in chest

    Ulceroglandular symptoms (skin and lymph gland problems):

    • Raised, red bump that continues to swell
    • Raised area opens, drains pus, and forms an ulcer
    • May form a dark scab
    • Swollen, tender lymph nodes
    • Fever
    • Chills

    Glandular symptoms (problems in lymph nodes):

    • Swollen, tender lymph nodes, but not sore

    Oculoglandular symptoms (problems in eyes and lymph nodes):

    • Sensitivity to light
    • Tearing
    • Puffy eyelid
    • Swelling, redness, and sores in the eye
    • Swollen lymph nodes

    Oropharyngeal symptoms (mouth and throat problems):

    • Irritated membranes in the mouth
    • Sore throat
    • Ulcers in the throat or on tonsils
    • Swollen lymph nodes

    Intestinal symptoms:

    • Fever
    • Abdominal pain
    • Diarrhea
    • Vomiting

    Typhoidal symptoms (full body problems):

    • Fever
    • Chills
    • Headache
    • Muscle aches
    • Poor appetite
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Abdominal pain
    • Cough

    Symptoms of progression from other types:

    • Swollen lymph nodes
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Bleeding
    • Confusion
    • Coma
    • Organ failure
    • Shock
    • Death
    Swollen Lymph Nodes
    Swollen Lymph Nodes
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

  • Treatment

    Antibiotics can treat most tularemia infections. The first few doses of antibiotics will be injected in a muscle or given through a vein. You may need to take antibiotics by mouth for a few days after the initial dose. Treatment can last for 10-14 days. Make sure to take all of your medication even if you feel better.

    Tularemia infections are reported to public health officials. This will help them track any outbreaks.