Tularemia: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention


Tularemia or "Rabbit Fever" is a common infection that occurs in wild rodents, rabbits and hares, and spreads to humans. It is caused by a bacterium Francisella tularensis. It is a disease that is mostly confined to the rural areas of North America, Asia and parts of Europe.

The disease has been plaguing man and animal for a long time and research has traced it to its epidemic that occurred in the Mediterranean region in 1715 BC. In the modern era, it was first identified and isolated by G.W. McCoy of the USA in 1912 and was soon linked to a certain section of people such as hunters, agricultural laborers and cooks.

Tularemia | Rabbit Fever

The disease is passed on to humans when they come in contact with infected animals, either dead or sick, or when they are bitten by infected insects such as ticks, mosquitoes or deerflies, or while inhaling bacteria that is airborne. Some people get pneumonia after breathing in infected dirt or plant material.

Of late, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the USA has recognized the bacteria that cause tularemia, as a biological warfare weapon. If an aerosol were to release the bacteria during wartime, people would start getting pneumonia within 1-10 days of exposure.


Symptoms of Tularemia

The incubation period of Tularemia is 3 to 5 days after exposure. The illness usually starts suddenly, and may continue for several weeks after it sets in.

Tularemia symptoms include-

  • Chills
  • Eye irritation / inflammation
  • Fever / headache
Symptoms of Tularemia: Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Mouth sores
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Joint stiffness /muscle pains
  • Skin sore / Skin ulcer
  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath/cough
  • Bloody sputum
  • Weight loss
  • Respiratory failure

In the absence of proper treatment, the disease can be fatal. Bone infection (osteomyelitis), infection of the sac surrounding the heart (pericarditis), meningitis and pneumonia are some of the complications of tularemia.

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