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Zoonotic infection caused by two subspecies of the bacterium Francisella (Francisella tularensis [70% of cases in North America] and Francisella holarctica)
- Life-cycle components
- Gram-negative coccobacillus
- Mammalian reservoirs: lagomorphs (hares, rabbits, and pikas), free-roaming cats, and rodents
- Vectors: ticks, flies, and mosquitoes
- Incubation ranges from 1 to 21 days (average is 3 to 4 days). Clinical disease has ulceroglandular, glandular, typhoidal, oculoglandular, pneumonic, or oropharyngeal manifestations.
- System(s) affected: cardiovascular, hematologic/lymphatic/immunologic, pulmonary, skin/exocrine, neurologic
- Synonym(s): rabbit fever; deer-fly fever; Pasteurella tularensis; Bacterium tularense; tick fever; Ohara disease; Francis disease
- 11% increase over prior 10 year average of U.S. cases reported in 2015
- Average of 158 cases/year in United States from 2005 to 2015
- 2013 CDC 314 U.S. cases: 53% in Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and South Dakota
- Predominant age (bimodal): 5 to 9 years and 40 to 64 years; predominant sex: males
- Seasonal: usually summer, 50% of cases, especially in children
Etiology and Pathophysiology
- F. tularensis is highly infectious; can enter via skin, mouth, eyes, throat, or respiratory tract
- Most commonly acquired via tick (in U.S. dog tick, wood tick, and lone star tick), deer fly (Chrysops; less common than tick), or mosquito (especially in Eastern Europe) bite
- Tick and deer fly bites usually result in glandular or ulceroglandular tularemia.
- Aerosol inhalation from contaminated dust, hay, or animal pelts
- Contact of skin or mucous membranes with blood or tissue of infected carcass (F. tularensis can penetrate unbroken skin)
- Ingestion of undercooked meat of infected animals or consumption of contaminated water
- Laboratory-acquired infections (usually respiratory)
- Respiratory infection most likely if biologic terrorism
- No documented person-to-person spread
- Francisella survives for months in a moist natural environment.
- F. tularensis is more virulent than F. holartica.
- Location: endemic in U.S. Midwest
- Non–U.S. cases occur in Eastern Europe, China, Japan, and rural areas of Northern Europe.
- Outdoor work; handling wild game or infected hay
- Pet owners: domestic and exotic
- Laboratory work with Francisella organisms
- Wear tick/mosquito repellents with DEET; avoid squeezing body of attached tick.
- Particular caution handling rabbits and rodents
- Avoid contact with high-risk animal carcasses or with material (e.g., water) that may have been in contact with infected animals.
- Cook wild game thoroughly.
- Lab workers: Wear protective hoods and use negative-pressure cabinets when working with F. tularensis:
- Follow biosafety level 3 precautions.
- Intradermal, live attenuated, unlicensed vaccine is available for high-risk persons (laboratory personnel or high-risk military).
Commonly Associated Conditions
- Other arthropod-borne diseases
- Tularemic conjunctivitis