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Indiana State Department of Health
Facts About Tularemia
What is tularemia?
- Tularemia is a bacterial infection usually found in small mammals such as mice, rats, squirrels, rabbits and hares.
- Occasionally, water may also be contaminated.
- People are more likely to be exposed in rural settings, although urban and suburban exposures occasionally occur.
How is tularemia spread?
- Humans become infected through environmental exposures and can develop severe, sometimes fatal illness.
- Infection typically occurs from bites by infected insects and ticks.
- Infection can also occur from the handling of infectious animal tissues or fluids.
- Direct contact with or ingestion of contaminated water, food or soil.
- Inhalation of infective aerosols.
- Tularemia is NOT spread from person to person.
What are the symptoms of tularemia?
- Onset of tularemia is usually sudden, with fever, headache, chills, generalized body aches (often in lower back), runny nose, and sore throat.
- Sweats, fever and chills, progressive weakness, loss of appetite, and weight loss characterize the continuing illness.
- If untreated, symptoms often persist for several weeks or months usually with progressive debility.
How is tularemia diagnosed?
- A physician’s complete and thorough physical examination and laboratory testing are necessary to confirm whether or not you have tularemia.
- Once diagnosed, tularemia can be treated with appropriate antibiotics.
- Treatment typically lasts at least 14 days to prevent relapse.
- As tularemia is not transmitted person to person, there is not a need for isolation.
What are the possible complications from tularemia?
- In untreated tularemia, symptoms often persist for several weeks and sometimes, for months, usually with progressive debility.
- Blood infection and, rarely, meningitis may complicate any form of tularemia.
How can tularemia be prevented?
- Educate yourself on the proper handling of sick or dead animals, particularly when hunting, camping, or butchering; and avoid handling them if at all possible.
- Take personal protective measures against biting insects while engaging in outdoor activities.
- Currently, there is no vaccine available.