|Tick Prevention Poster|
What is tularemia?
Tularemia, or rabbit fever, is a bacterial disease associated with both animals and humans. Although many wild and domestic animals can be infected, the rabbit is most often involved in disease outbreaks. Tularemia is relatively rare in Illinois; five or fewer cases are reported each year.
Who gets tularemia?
The disease occurs throughout the United States in all months of the year. The incidence, however, is higher for adults in early winter during rabbit hunting season and for children during the summer when ticks and deer flies are abundant.
How is tularemia spread?
Many routes of human exposure to the tularemia bacteria are known to exist. The common routes include inoculation of the skin or mucous membranes with blood or tissue while handling infected animals, the bite of an infected tick, contact with fluids from infected deer flies or ticks, or handling or eating insufficiently cooked rabbit meat. Less common means of spread are drinking contaminated water, inhaling dust from contaminated soil or handling contaminated pelts or paws of animals. Tularemia is not spread from person to person.
What are the symptoms of tularemia?
Symptoms vary, depending on the route of introduction. In those cases where a person becomes infected from handling an animal carcass, symptoms can include a slow-growing ulcer at the site where the bacteria entered the skin (usually on the hand) and swollen lymph nodes. If the bacteria is inhaled, a pneumonia-like illness can follow. Those who ingest the bacteria may report a sore throat, abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting.
How soon do symptoms appear?
Symptoms can appear between one and 14 days after exposure, but usually do so after three to five days.
What is the treatment for tularemia?
The drug of choice for treating tularemia is streptomycin or gentamicin, although other antibiotics also are effective.
Does past infection with tularemia make a person immune?
Long-term immunity usually follows recovery from tularemia. However, reinfection has been reported.
What can be done to prevent the spread of tularemia?
Several precautions can protect individuals from tularemia.
How should an attached tick be removed?
Remove any tick promptly. Do not try to burn the tick with a match or cover it with petroleum jelly or nail polish. Do not use bare hands. The best way to remove a tick is to grasp it with fine-point tweezers as close to the skin as possible and gently, but firmly, pull it straight out. Do not twist or jerk the tick. If tweezers are not available, grasp the tick with a piece of cloth or whatever can be used as a barrier between your fingers and the tick. You may want to put the tick in a jar of rubbing alcohol labeled with the date and location of the bite in case you seek medical attention and your physician wishes to have the tick identified.
The mouthparts of a tick are shaped like tiny barbs and may remain embedded and lead to infection at the bite site if not removed properly. Be sure to wash the bite area and your hands thoroughly with soap and water, and apply an antiseptic to the bite site.
Why is there concern about tularemia as a bioweapon?
Tularemia, in aerosol form, is considered a possible bioterrorist agent. Persons who inhale an infectious aerosol would likely experience severe respiratory illness. Any suspected cases of tularemia inhalation should be immediately reported to local and state health departments.
of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
Questions or Comments