Division of Epidemiology
275 E. Main St.
Frankfort, KY 40621
(502) 564-3418 or 3261
What is Tularemia?
Tularemia is a zoonotic bacterial disease occurring in both animals and man. It is caused by the bacteria Francisella tularensis and is most commonly associated with rabbits.
How is Tularemia spread?
People may become infected with Tularemia from the bite of infected ticks of several species, including the wood tick, dog tick and the lone star tick, and less commonly from bites from flies or mosquitoes. People also may be infected from handling the carcasses of infected animals, from eating improperly cooked meat from infected animals, from contaminated water sources, and from inhalation of dust from contaminated soil, hay or grain. On rare occasions a person may be infected from the bite wound of an animal that has a contaminated mouth from eating an animal that had tularemia.
Who is at risk?
Hunters are more at risk in the winter months if they handle the carcasses of infected animals and in the summer, children and people who spend a lot of time in areas that may have tick infestations.
The Symptoms of Tularemia
Tularemia most often presents with an ulcer at the site where the bacteria entered the body and regional swelling of lymph nodes; there may only be lymph node enlargement. Ingestion of the organism produces a sore throat, abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting. Inhalation of the bacteria may produce a lung infection or primary septicemia (blood poisoning). Other rare forms of the disease also occur.
Symptoms develop within 1 to 14 days, usually within 3-5 days.
How is Tularemia diagnosed and treated?
Diagnosis is based on clinical symptoms and confirmed through laboratory tests. Specific antibiotics prescribed by a physician. Long term immunity follows recovery, but reinfection has been reported.
How can Tularemia be prevented?
Avoid bites of ticks, flies, and mosquitoes.
Avoid drinking, bathing, swimming or working in untreated water.
Wear rubber gloves when skinning or handling animals, especially rabbits.
Thoroughly cook meat of rabbits and wild rodents before eating.