What is Tularemia?
Tularemia is a highly infectious disease that is uncommon in people. It is also called the deer fly fever or rabbit fever and is caused by Francisella Tularensis bacteria. It is usually found in animals like rabbits, squirrels, mice, muskrats, and beavers. Tularemia transmission can happen from these animals to people. It affects the lymph nodes, skin, eyes, and lungs. This infection can be treated using antibiotics but if left untreated it can be life-threatening. But it needs to be diagnosed by experts as the Francisella tularensis symptoms resemble other illnesses.
The symptoms of this infectious disease depend on the route of transmission and can be mild or severe. There are a few cases where there are no noticeable signs of infection. It takes about 3 to 5 days for the symptoms to develop after being infected and can stay for several weeks. The tularemia signs and symptoms are:
- Rashes or skin ulcers
- Lymph nodes are swollen and tender
- Fever and chills than come on suddenly
- Pain in the muscles
- Joint pain
- Sore throat or mouth sores
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- A feeling of general illness
- Inflammation of the eye membrane leading to redness of the eye, itching, and eye pain.
- Coughing, chest pain, or breathing problems
- Weakness or feeling tired
- Diarrhoea, enlargement of the liver and spleen, and jaundice.
Who is at Risk?
Tularemia is caused by animals that carry the bacteria and hence the risk of getting infected is high if you are in contact with those animals. The other risk factors are:
- Veterinarians, park rangers, and zookeepers who work closely with animals are at an increased risk.
- People who live in rural areas or heavily forested places.
- Hunters, butchers, or taxidermists who deal with dead animals.
- Gardeners or landscapers who work in gardens and lawns.
- People who live or visit places that are infested with animals that transmit this disease.
Animals that carry Francisella Tularensis bacteria can infect the human through bites from ticks, flies, or mosquitoes.
- The bacteria can survive in the environment for a long time and can be transmitted when using bare hands to touch the soil.
- Consuming food or water that is contaminated can also lead to infection.
- Handling of dead animals, their fluids or tissues infected with tularemia.
- Inhaling dust particles that contain these bacteria.
- Working in labs with samples of infected animals or humans without proper safety measures.
How is Tularemia Diagnosed?
Tularemia diagnosis is quite challenging as the symptoms appear like other illnesses. Moreover, there are many ways the bacteria can enter the body making things more complicated. So it becomes extremely important to provide an accurate personal and medical history during diagnosis. The doctor will enquire about recent travel history and also contact with animals. That helps in finding if the symptoms are due to tularemia. Some of the tests ordered are:
- Serology tests are done as tularemia tests to look for antibodies that have developed to fight the bacteria.
- A sample of the lymph nodes, skin, spinal fluid and the pleural fluid is taken for culture in the lab.
- A chest x-ray may be ordered if there are signs of pneumonia.
How is Tularemia Treated?
Tularemia treatment depends on the form and severity of the infection. Early diagnosis helps in providing early treatment and cure. The treatment options are:
- Antibiotics are administered either through the mouth or through injections. The treatment can last from anywhere between 10 days to 3 weeks.
- If there are underlying medical conditions like pneumonia then medications are provided for treating the same.
- In some cases, surgery to drain the swollen lymph nodes or to remove infected tissue may be needed.
Tularemia can be successfully treated without any complications if it is diagnosed early. Moreover, some of the antibiotics used for treatment have side effects and hence should be chosen with care. So it is important to meet a qualified professional to get the infection properly cured. Book your appointment with our specialists at Cure.fit and get your tularemia cured!
How can Tularemia be Prevented?
Tularemia prevention is possible by following the below tips:
- Avoiding sick or dead animals.
- Use proper protective gear on your hands while skinning dead wild animals.
- Wear clothing that prevents exposure of wrists, ankles and other parts of the skin.
- Drink clean water
- Wild meat should be fully cooked
- Ticks and fleas should be removed from pets
- Wear gloves and goggles while handling dead animals.
- Animal remains should be kept away from food and water.
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