Medical Definition of Tularemia

Reviewed on 3/29/2021

Tularemia: A bacterial disease that is caused by infection with the bacterium Francisella tularensis, which lives in wild and domestic animals, most often rabbits, and can be transmitted to humans via contact with animal tissues, fleas, deerflies, or ticks. Hunters and other people who spend much time outdoors may be exposed by direct contact with an infected animal or carcass or by the bite of an infected flea or tick. Symptoms appear 2 to 10 days after exposure. Most often there is a red spot on the skin that enlarges and ulcerates, together with enlarged lymph nodes (swollen glands) in the armpit or groin. Ingestion of the organism may produce a throat infection, intestinal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting. Inhalation of the organism may produce a fever or a pneumonia-like illness. Treatment involves use of antibiotics. Rubber or latex gloves should be worn when skinning or handling animals, especially rabbits. Wild rabbit and rodent meat should be cooked thoroughly before being eaten. One should try to avoid bites of deerflies and ticks and avoid drinking, bathing, swimming, and working in untreated water. Also known as rabbit fever and deerfly fever.



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