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Lyme Coinfection Series-Tularemia

By Beth Aust, RN, Holistic Health Coach


This is a continuation of our Lyme and coinfection series to help educate you.

“Human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge.” ~ Plato

Tularemia, also known as rabbit fever, is a rare infectious disease caused by a bacterium, Francisella tularensis, transmitted by ticks. Ticks that transmit tularemia include Amblyomma americanum (lone star), Dermacentor variabilis (American dog), and Dermacentor andersoni (wood).

Tularemia has become evident worldwide, mainly in rural areas. It is spread by insect bites, deer flies, dog ticks, wood ticks, lone star ticks, and exposure to sick or dead animals. Occasionally, it can be spread by airborne bacteria found in soil, contaminated food or water, or and by eating or handling undercooked meat of an infected animal.


Tularemia is considered a serious bioterrorist threat due to its high infectivity and easy aerosolization.


Who is at risk for tularemia?

Anyone, anywhere, at any age can be infected with tularemia. In fact, tularemia has been reported in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Japan, and Europe.


Higher risk factors may include:

· Working in hunting and trapping, because hunters are exposed to wild animal blood

· Working as gardeners and landscapers, because one can be infected by inhaling bacteria that are stirred up in the soil

· Working in wildlife management or veterinary medicine, where one can be exposed to either ticks and deer flies or infected animal tissue


Symptoms of Tularemia:

Symptoms can include headache, chilliness, vomiting, aching pains, fever, swollen glands, sweating, weight loss, debility, and the infection site developing into an ulcer.

The disease commonly attacks the skin, eyes, lymph nodes, and lungs. Typically, exposed Individuals become sick within three to five days, although it can take as long as fourteen days.


Testing & Diagnosis:

A presumptive diagnosis of tularemia may be made through testing of specimens using a direct fluorescent antibody, immunohistochemical staining, or PCR. Confirmation may be made by culture or acute and convalescent serology.


Like other tick-borne infectious diseases, it is both preventable and treatable – but only if you are aware of the risks.

Treatment of tularemia consists of antibiotic treatment, which may include streptomycin, gentamicin, doxycycline, and ciprofloxacin. However, tularemia can, like other tick-borne diseases, be difficult to diagnose – especially when left untreated, and symptoms become less localized or specific.


In Conclusion:

If you think you have been exposed to tularemia, it is imperative that you talk to your health care provider about getting tested.


At IM of CNY, we have Lyme (and coinfection) Literate providers who will meet with you, listen to you, and work with you in creating a wellness plan specifically for you based on testing and clinical presentation.

Current patients of IMOFCNY are encouraged to discuss with their provider if they should have testing for tularemia.


Not yet a patient of IMOFCNY? We would love to have you! Call us at 315-741-5774 or visit our website for more information.


This is part of our Lyme disease and coinfection series; please be sure to check out our other blogs in the series, or subscribe to our newsletter to learn more.


References:

https://lymediseaseassociation.org/lyme-tbd/other-tick-borne-diseases/tularemia/

https://www.ilads.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/brochure-tick-borne-diseases-other-than-lyme.pdf

https://igenex.com/tick-talk/tularemia-what-you-need-to-know/

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