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Tularemia (cont.)

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What are tularemia symptoms and signs?

Symptoms usually appear three to five days after the organism is acquired, although longer incubation periods (14 days) have been reported. Patients become ill suddenly and have influenza-like symptoms with fever, aches, and fatigue, and headache. A nonspecific rash may occur. Fever may be high, and may go away for a short time only to return. Untreated, the fever usually lasts about four weeks.

Other symptoms depend on the type of tularemia. In ulceroglandular tularemia, a red nodule appears at the site of inoculation and eventually forms an open sore associated with swollen lymph nodes. If untreated, the sore and the swollen lymph nodes resolve slowly over a period of months. Lymph nodes may become filled with pus (suppurate) and require drainage. In glandular tularemia, there is significant swelling of a group of lymph nodes but no detectable sore. The eye is infected (oculoglandular disease) when touched by contaminated hands, causing pain, swelling, and discharge. Oculoglandular disease is accompanied by swollen lymph nodes around the ear and neck.

Pharyngeal tularemia is usually acquired through eating or drinking and causes a sore throat. Necrotic tissue and pus often line the throat, and the lymph nodes of the neck are swollen.

Typhoidal tularemia causes infection of many organs and the bloodstream. Patients with typhoidal tularemia may experience diarrhea or jaundice. As the disease progresses, the liver and spleen may become enlarged. Pneumonia may occur at presentation or may be a late complication. In severe disease, the kidneys and other organs may fail.

Pneumonic tularemia is caused by inhalation of infected material or by spread of the organism to the lung from other sites. Inhalation may occur while farming, mowing a yard (mowing over dead rodents), or sheering sheep. Laboratory workers may become infected when material is inadvertently aerosolized in the lab. Pneumonia may occur in any of the types of tularemia but is especially common in typhoidal tularemia.

Is tularemia contagious, and what is the contagious period for tularemia?

Tularemia is not transmitted from person to person, so there is no contagious period for tularemia. However, some medical authors consider tularemia to be highly contagious to humans from environmental sources because of the small number of bacteria it takes to cause potentially lethal infections. Contagiousness from environmental sources can be long-lived, as the organisms can survive in cool, moist environments for weeks or months.

What is the incubation period for tularemia?

The incubation period for tularemia (the time it takes to develop signs and symptoms after exposure to the organisms) varies with the size of the inoculum; as few as 10 organisms may cause infection. The average incubation period is about two to six days but can range from one to 21 days.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/7/2016


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