Tularemia Disease Facts

Tularemia is a disease of caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis. Rabbits, hares, and rodents are especially susceptible and often die in large numbers during outbreaks. Humans can become infected through:

  • Tick and deer fly bites
  • contact with infected animals
  • drinking of contaminated water
  • Inhalation of contaminated dusts or aerosols

Signs & Symptoms

There are 4 different types to the Illness can be mild to life-threatening. All forms are accompanied by fever, which can be as high as 104 °F. Main forms of this disease are listed below:

  • Ulceroglandular is a skin ulcer that forms at the site where a tick or deer fly bite or after handing of an infected animal.
  • Glandular is like ulceroglandular tularemia but without an ulcer.
  • Oculoglandular usually happens when the bacteria enter through the eye.Symptoms include irritation and inflammation of eye and swelling of lymph glands in front of the ear.
  • Oropharyngeal happens when someone eats or drinking contaminated food or water. Patients with orophyangeal tularemia may have sore throat, mouth ulcers, tonsillitis, and swelling of lymph glands in the neck.
  • Pneumonic is the most serious form of tularemia. Symptoms include cough, chest pain, and difficulty breathing. This form results from breathing dusts or aerosols containing the organism. It can also occur when other forms of tularemia (e.g. ulceroglandular) are left untreated and the bacteria spread through the bloodstream to the lungs.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Tularemia can be difficult to diagnose. It is a rare disease, and the symptoms can be mistaken for other more common illnesses. For this reason, it is important to share with your health care provider any likely exposures, such as tick and deer fly bites, or contact with sick or dead animals. Blood tests and cultures can help confirm the diagnosis. Antibiotics are used to treat the illness, and most patients recover if recieving treatment in sufficient time.


Use of insect repellent
Wearing gloves when handling sick or dead animals
Avoiding mowing over dead animals

Hiker in the woods: Take precautions outdoors.

When hiking, camping or working outdoors:

  • Use insect repellants
  • Wear long pants, long sleeves, and long socks to keep tick and deer flies off your skin
  • Remove attached ticks immediatley and properly
  • Don’t drink untreated surface water

When mowing or landscaping:

  • Don’t mow over sick or dead animals
  • Consider using dust masks to reduce your risk of inhaling the bacteria

If you hunt, trap or skin animals:

  • Use gloves when handling animals, especially rabbits, muskrats, prairie dogs, and other rodents
  • Cook game meat thoroughly before eating

Until recently, a vaccine has been available but it is currently under review by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is not generally available in the United States.