Tularemia is a condition that primarily infects a variety of animal species, including rodents, deer, squirrels, muskrats, and rabbits. Though tularemia is mostly found within these animal populations, it is also possible for it to be transmitted to humans with blood contact, or a bite from a tick, fly, or other insect that is infected with the disease. Tularemia was much more prevalent in the human population during the rugged frontier, when hunters would often skin animals bare-handed, and risk contact with infected blood. The spread of tularemia is most rampant throughout the summer season, and statistics show that a majority of tularemia cases have occurred in the southeastern part of the United States.
Tularemia disease has five potential causes, varying depending on how the bacteria makes contact with your system. The five variations of illness include: oculoglandular, ulceroglandular, oropharyngeal, pulmonary, and typhoidal tularemia. The symptoms of the disease are also relative to the type of infection suffered.
Oculoglandular tularemia is a very rare manner to get the disease, accounting for only one percent of all tularemia cases worldwide. Oculoglandular tularemia is caused primarily by infected hands having contact with eyes, thus the disease transmits. As a result, the eyelid lining and the conjunctiva become inflamed, red, and painful. Additonally, the lymph nodes located on the neck can swell, and bumps and sores may appear in the area around the eye.
Ulceroglandular tularemia is the most common form of tularemia, accounting for approximatelly eighty-five percent of all cases worldwide. The disease is spread by ticks defecating bacteria around the bite. When this occurs, a red bump appears around the wound (which eventually evolves into an ulcer), and the lymph nodes become incredibly swollen and the lymph nodes ooze a pus-like substance. Other common symptoms include: chills, spasms, fatigue, and fever.
Oropharyngeal tularemia occurs when meat is not cooked properly and then digested, or from a contamined water source. It can also occur from extremely poor hygiene. Symptoms include severe abdominal pain, mouth sores, nausea, vomiting, intestinal ulcers and bleeding, and chronic diarrhea.
Pulmonary tularemia, much like oculoglandular tularemia, is a very rare form. This form of tularemia is transmitted through the inhaling of infected chemicals and/or fluids that travel through the lungs and enter the circulatory system. Pneumonia is the most common result of pulmonary tularemia.
Those infected with typhoidal tularemia often don’t experience lymph node swelling or skin sores, but they do tend to suffer from high fevers, migraines, and become very disoriented. This is often the result of shock and/or a lack of proper blood circulation.
In order to diagnosis the various forms of tularemia, a common method is to test the sores on the body using identifying chemicals, and then looking for tularemia bacteria using a lab microscope. Additonal tests are used when skin sores are not present, and they examine the body for an increased number of antiobodies, that signal that a tularemia infection has occurred.
The treatment of tularemia is relatively straightforward, as two antibiotics are injected into the body to kill the infection: streptomycin and gentamicin. Though it is possible to use other forms of antibiotics, the success of such antibiotics are comparatively minimal.
Though Tularemia can potentially be fatal, with modern treatment and technology, the mortality rate has been substantially lowered. With proper treatment, statistics suggest that there is less than a one percent fatality rate, but without treatment, that statistic is significantly higher at approximately thirty-five percent.
In order to try and prevent tularemia, it is important to practice good hygiene habits, using gloves when skinning meat and always washing your hands following contact. Additonally, if possible, one should avoid areas that are known to be infested with ticks and flies. Though a tularemia vaccine exists, it is only administered to those who have daily contact with carcasses.