What is tularemia?
Tularemia is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis, and is considered to be one of the most infectious disease-causing bacteria known. These bacteria are most commonly found in rabbits, hares, voles, muskrats and other wild rodents, but can also be found in sheep, cattle, and cats. About 200 cases of tularemia in humans are reported each year in the United States, mostly in people who live in the south-central and western states. However, tularemia occurs sporadically through the United States, including West Virginia. Tularemia is also know as “rabbit fever” and “deerfly fever”. In addition to causing natural disease, F. tularensis has been implicated as a possible agent for use in bioterrorism. Use of tularemia as a biological weapon would most likely occur as an aerosol release of the bacterium, although the potential for alternate delivery also exists.
What are the symptoms of tularemia?
A skin ulcer and swollen, painful lymph glands are common symptoms of tularemia when the bacteria are introduced into the skin. If the tularemia bacteria are eaten or consumed in drinking water, they can cause sore throat, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and mouth ulcers. If the tularemia bacteria are inhaled, symptoms would include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, joint pain, dry cough, weakness, and pneumonia. Swollen and painful eyes can result from bacteria being introduced into the eyes.
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