Tularemia or rabbit fever is an infectious disease affecting animals. The bacteria will get transmitted into humans when they come in contact with infected animals. The infection spreads easily by inhalation of spores, by eating uncooked meat or by drinking contaminated water. The disease causes high fever, headache and swelling of lymph nodes. If left untreated rabbit fever can become severe and cause death. It was Edward Francis when he was working in Tulare, California discovered that the fever can spread through bacteria and hence the name Tularemia was given.
There are different kinds of tularemia and each one produces different symptoms. Often the symptoms appear within 2-5 days of getting infected with bacteria. The bacterium will enter your body through skin contact or in rare cases they can be inhaled or eaten (uncooked food).
Tularemia Ulceroglandular :
This is the most common type of tularemia causing skin ulcer (at the site of infection), swollen lymph glands, fever, headache, chills, and fatigue.
Tularemia glandular :
The symptoms are the same as above but the affected person will not have skin ulcer.
Tularemia Oculoglandular :
Eyes are largely affected in this type causing red coloration of the eyes, swelling of eyes, whitish discharge from the eyes and eye pain. For some people ulcer may be formed inside the eyes.
Tularemia Oropharyngeal :
This type of tularemia occurs for people who eat contaminated food or undercooked meat. It affects the digestive tract of your body causing nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever and sore throat.
Pneumonic tularemia :
This type of tularemia affects your lungs causing irritant cough, chest pain, shortness of breath, and lung infection.
Typhoidal tularemia :
It is a rare type causing high fever, pneumonia, diarrhea and enlargement of spleen/liver.
Tularemia is contracted from infected animals and birds. The bacterium by name Francisella tularensis infects animals. Such animals are bitten by insects/mosquitoes/ticks which carry these bacteria. Humans contract this disease when they come into direct skin contact with animals or if they are bitten by infected insects.
How it is transmitted?
Tularemia has several methods of transmission. When you are bitten by infected insects like ticks/mosquitoes you are likely to get tularemia. When you are handling infected animals, bacterium can enter your body through cut/injury. Ocular tularemia occurs when a person accidentally rubs his eyes after touching the infected animals. In rare cases, tularemia bacteria can be inhaled when people are engaged in gardening or construction work. When you eat or drink contaminated food/water you are likely to get tularemia.
Who are at risk?
Living in areas like Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas makes one prone to develop tularemia. A person engaged in hunting or in the habit of eating raw flesh can develop this disease. Pneumonic tularemia can affect people who work as gardeners/landscapers.
Tularemia can cause death if not treated promptly. It can cause pneumonia causing respiratory failure, meningitis (brain infection), pericarditis (heart infection) and osteomyelitis (bone infection).
Tularemia is difficult to be identified by doctors. Your doctor will closely observe the symptoms and order for blood test to check for the presence of F. tularensis in your blood sample. He would also check if the level of antibodies has increased considerably in your sample of blood indicating the presence of bacterium.
Antibiotics like gentamycin, streptomycin are effective for treating tularemia. It can be given in the form of oral pills or by infection depending on the intensity of symptoms. For more severe cases, doxycycline is prescribed. Based on the symptoms the treatment may differ widely.
There is no vaccination discovered for tularemia. You need to take precautions while working in garden and handling infected animals. Using insect repellants is a wise choice. Keep your pets well protected from getting infection.