What is tularemia?

Tularemia is an infectious disease, occurs due to infection by the bacteria Francisella tularensis. The most commonly affected organs are the skin, eyes, lungs and lymph nodes but rarely internal organs may also be affected. Tularemia may lead to number of complications like inflammatory changes in the protective covering of the brain, the meninges (meningitis), lung tissue (pneumonia), protective covering of the heart, pericardium (pericarditis) and infection of the bone (osteomyelitis). The disease spread from mammals, birds, fish and contact with infected soil, water or dead animals.

Tularemia Symptoms

Symptoms of tularemia usually become manifested within 2 to 10 days after infection. There are different types of tularemia depending upon the organs involved and the route of entry. Tularemia may lead to fatal outcome if not treated timely and adequately.

There are number of complications of untreated tularemia like pneumonia which ultimately leads to respiratory failure, meningitis due to inflammatory changes in the protective covering of the brain and the spinal cord which may lead to spread of infection to brain, pericarditis, inflammatory changes in the protective layer surrounding the heart and spread of infection to bone leading to osteomyelitis.

Types of Tularemia

The different varieties of tularemia are :

  • Ulceroglandular tularemia: this is the most commonly occurring variety of tularemia and is characterized by skin lesion, usually ulcer at the site of entry of infecting organism (insect or animal bite), painful swelling of adjacent lymph nodes (glands), high fever with chill and rigor and associated excruciating headache and increased fatigue.
  • Glandular tularemia: in this form of disease symptoms are similar to those of ulcerglandular tularemia apart from skin lesions.
  • Oculoglandular tularemia: in this form eyes are the mainly affected organs and important symptoms include painful red eyes with discharge and ulceration on the eye lids along with painful swollen glands (lymph nodes)
  • Oropharyngeal tularemia: this variety is characterized by high fever, sore throat, ulceration in the oral cavity, diarrhea and vomiting. This type of tularemia occurs due to entry of the infecting organism inside the body through intake of contaminated meat or water.
  • Pneumonic tularemia: this variety most commonly occurs in elderly people and characterized by chest pain, cough and shortness of breathing.
  • Typhoidal tularemia: this one of the rare and serious form of tularemia and characterized by high fever, increased tiredness, swelling of spleen and liver, cough, respiratory distress etc.

Causes of Tularemia

Tularemia dose not spread from person to person rather via infected animals. There are number of routes through which tularemia infection occurs in humans. These are

  • Insect bites: ticks and deer fly often carry the infecting bacteria of tularemia, thus bite of these insects may lead to tularemia.
  • Skin contact with dead or sick animals suffering from tularemia: the infecting organism may enter human body through entry via small cut or abrasion on the skin or mucous membrane.
  • Entry as anĀ  aerosol: infecting organism can thrive in soil hence during gardening these may enter human body.
  • Intake of contaminated food (meat) or drink may also lead to tularemia.

Risk factors

Although anyone can suffer from tularemia common risk factors include contact with wildlife, gardeners and veterinary doctors.

Tularemia Treatment

Although tuleramia can be effectively treated, the focus should be on preventing the condition as far as possible. When the infection is contracted, early diagnosis and prompt treatment are important t0 avoid complications. Streptomycin or gentamycin administered as injection in muscles or veins is the mainstay of treatment. Complications of tularemia if present are managed accordingly.

Posted by in Infections and Infestations

Leave a Reply