Tularemia: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

What Is Tularemia?

Tularemia is an extremely rare pathological condition which usually affects the skin, eyes, lungs and to a lesser extent other organs of the body. This disease is also known by the name of Rabbit Fever. It is a bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Francisella Tularensis. It is basically found in mammals, but can easily be transmitted to humans. Tularemia can affect the body through insect bites or direct contact with an infected animal. This disease is extremely contagious and can be potentially life threatening if not diagnosed early and treated.


What Are The Causes Of Tularemia?

Tularemia as stated is usually found in mammals like birds, insects, fish etc. and can be easily transmitted to humans. This disease is found in rural areas as there may be quite a significant number of animals infected with Francisella Tularensis bacteria. Some of the modes of transmission of the bacteria into humans are:

Insect Bites: The insects that are most common to carry the bacteria are ticks and deer flies and are thus more likely to cause the disease.

Exposure to Sick or Dead Animals: Tularemia can also be caused by being bitten by an infected animal usually a rabbit. Bacteria enters the skin through cuts and wounds with development of an ulcer at the site of the wound.

Airborne Bacteria: Bacteria present in the soil can become air borne at the time of gardening or doing other construction activities, which can lead to inhalation of the bacteria and causing pneumonic form of Tularemia.

Contaminated Food/Water: It may be pretty rare, but Tularemia can also be caused by eating undercooked meat of the infected animal or consuming contaminated water.

What Are The Symptoms Of Tularemia?

The symptoms of Tularemia depend on the type of the disease that an individual has, some of which has been illustrated below:

Ulceroglandular Tularemia: The symptoms of this form of Tularemia are

  • Formation of an ulcer at the site of infection
  • Swelling of the lymph glands
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue

Oculoglandular Tularemia: Some of the symptoms of this form of disease are

  • Eye pain
  • Redness of the eyes
  • Discharge from the eye
  • Formation of ulcer in the inside of the eyelid

Oropharyngeal Tularemia: The symptoms of this form of Tularemia are

  • Fever
  • Pharyngitis
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Pneumonic Tularemia: The symptoms of this form of Tularemia are

Typhoidal Tularemia: Some of the symptoms of this form of disease are

  • High fever
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Vomiting 
  • Diarrhea
  • Splenomegaly
  • Hepatomegaly
  • Pneumonia

How Is Tularemia Diagnosed?

Tularemia is a difficult disease to definitively diagnose as the symptoms caused by it are similar to many other disease conditions. Blood or sputum culture is done to check for the bacteria, but the best way to diagnose this disease is to look for antibodies to the bacteria in blood.

What Are Treatments For Tularemia?

Antibiotics are the best way to treat Tularemia. The medications of choice are streptomycin or gentamicin given intravenously or intramuscularly. Apart from these two medications, medications like doxycycline may also be prescribed depending on the type of Tularemia. In case there are any complications like pneumonia etc. then the affected individual will receive treatment for that. Generally once successfully treated Tularemia does not recur.