Tularemia: A Bacteria From Tick Bites & Skin Contact

May 14, 2012

We’ve covered how tick bites can transmit Lyme Disease (East), as well as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (All US), but ticks, as well as small mammals like rabbits and mice (and in one instance wild hogs) can catch and transmit Tularemia, a highly contagious disease that often causes mass rodent die-offs.

How do humans catch Tularemia?

Besides tick bites, if local animals become infected incidental exposure become more likely. Touching or handling an infected animal, accidentally mowing one in the yard, biting flies, eating undercooked meat of an infected animal (hunters are especially at risk of this) or by drinking contaminated water (say, swimming in a lake or river shared by infected animals or downstream of the contamination).

The bad news is that America suffers from a more serious strain than Europe does, but the good news is that cases have become quite rare. Since zoo animals can be affected (and steps are taken to prevent this), cities have spread, and people spend less time outdoors, cases of the disease have been in decline over the last century. The last (US) outbreaks occurred in Utah in 2007 and Texas in 2011.

Symptoms of Tulameria occur in humans about 3-5 after transmission, and are hallmarked by a high fever and red face/eyes. It can still be treated with antibiotics, so supporting your health with an antimicrobial after contact with a sick animal, or after a fly or tick bite couldn’t hurt.

Any readers from Texas or Utah remember the last outbreaks? What advice did public health officials give?

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