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The symptoms of tularemia usually begin 3–5 days (range of 1–14 days) after being exposed to the bacteria. Persons with tularemia often develop a sudden influenza-like illness, characterized by fever/chills, body aches, nausea, headache and fatigue. Then they can progress to develop one or more of the 7 different forms of tularemia:
Ulceroglandular – swollen lymph nodes with skin ulcer
Glandular – swollen lymph nodes without skin ulcer
Oculoglandular –swollen lymph nodes and eye infection
Oropharyngeal – swollen lymph nodes and sore throat
Intestinal – abdominal pain, vomiting or diarrhea
Pneumonic – pneumonia and other lung infections
Typhoidal – fever without other symptoms
The form of tularemia that a person develops depends on where the bacteria enter the person’s body. The most common form of tularemia is ulceroglandular, which often causes a skin ulcer at the site of the bite of an infected tick.
The diagnosis of tularemia is based upon symptoms and laboratory testing. Blood samples can be tested for antibodies to F. tularensis, and the bacteria can also be cultured from the ulcer site, lymph node or other specimen. Laboratory workers must use extreme caution while working with F. tularensis because the bacteria can be easily spread in laboratory settings.
There are specific antibiotics that can be used for treatment that will reduce the severity of disease. If someone suspects that they were exposed to tularemia, they should see their doctor immediately. Overall, 1-2% of persons with tularemia die due to the disease even with the appropriate antibiotics. Factors associated with a worse outcome include increasing age, serious coexisting medical conditions, symptoms of a month or longer before treatment, and inappropriate antibiotic therapy. Although tularemia can be severe, preventive antibiotic therapy in non-ill persons following a tick bite is not recommended.
What can be done to prevent exposure to tularemia?
External Tularemia Resources:
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