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TICK-BORNE DISEASES

TULAREMIA (Francisella tularensis )   Tick Control, LLC

Tularemia is an infectious disease also known as rabbit fever. You can contract the disease from an infected tick bite, among other causes. It was first discovered in 1911 in Tulare County, California and named after the county. There are about 200 cases of tularemia reported in the United States each year. 

Signs and Symptoms 

 

There are, in fact, several strands of tularemia, and each one has its own associated symptoms. The most common type that results from tick bites is ulceroglandular. With this version of tularemia, a skin ulcer develops at the site of the bite and you may have swollen lymph nodes near your armpits or groin. You may also have fever, chills, aches, and fatigue. Another type is glandular tularemia, which is the same as ulceroglandular, but without the skin ulcer. 

There’s also oculoglandular tularemia, which affects the eye and results in eye pain and redness, as well as discharge. In addition, there’s oropharyngeal which affects the mouth, throat, and digestive track, as a result of eating poorly cooked wild meat or drinking contaminated water. Pneumonic tularemia is similar to pneumonia, and a rare, severe form of the disease is typhoidal tularemia. 

 What is the Bacterium that Causes Tularemia? 

Tularemia is caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis, which can enter the body through the skin like most tickborne diseases, as well as through the mouth, lungs, and eyes. Wherever the bacterium enters the body determines which type of tularemia you’ll have and which symptoms are associated. 

Tick bites aren’t the only means of transmission, either. Tularemia can result after handling infected animal tissue, such as in hunting or skinning. Animals particularly susceptible to infection are rabbits, prairie dogs, rodents, and cats. You can also contract tularemia by consuming the under-cooked meat of infected animals. 

 

One of the rare and severe forms of tularemia, pneumonic tularemia, can result from breathing in dust or aerosols containing the F. tularensis bacterium. An example of this type of exposure given by the CDC is in farming or landscaping, if machinery happens to run over infected animal carcasses. https://www.cdc.gov/tularemia/transmission/index.html 

 Which Types of Tick Carry Tularemia? 

The 3 known tick vectors for tularemia are the American dog tick, the wood tick, and the lone star tick. The most common versions of the disease that result from tick bites are ulceroglandular and glandular tularemia. 

American dog ticks like shrubby, tall-grass areas and tend to wait for hosts alongside roads and walkways. For this reason, dogs and humans are attacked frequently by these ticks. Lone star ticks are also aggressive feeders, but tend to prefer forests and undergrowth. 

Both of these species of tick will feed on dogs or cats, but the American dog tick prefers the domestic dog as its mammalian host. Dogs can be infected with tularemia, but it’s more rare than in humans. Cats, on the other hand, are highly susceptible to tularemia. 

Cures and Treatments 

 

Tularemia is not easy to diagnose since its symptoms resemble those of other diseases. It’s also quite rare. Doctors will therefore often rely on risk factors to help determine if it’s tularemia. If you work in close contact with animals, were bitten by a tick or deer fly recently, live in forested areas, or have a weak immune system, your doctor may treat you for tularemia if you show some of the symptoms. 

Treatment is usually a course of antibiotics, which may differ depending on which type of tularemia you’re diagnosed with. Early diagnosis is essential, as complications can arise if tularemia goes untreated. In dogs and cats with tularemia, antibiotics are typically prescribed as well. 

Areas in Danger of Being Bitten 

 

The American dog tick and the lone star tick are both found in Connecticut, but the lone star species arrived more recently. There were, however, zero cases of the disease reported in Connecticut in 2019. https://portal.ct.gov/DPH/Epidemiology-and-Emerging-Infections/Tularemia The greatest number of cases of tularemia in 2018 were reported in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, and Missouri. 

 

Final Thoughts 

 

Even though tularemia is a rare disease, it can still be severe. Like with most tick-borne diseases, precaution against exposure to tick bites is the best defense. Remember to take care when venturing into likely tick habitats – wear long sleeves, long pants, socks, and closed-toe shoes. You might also treat your clothes with permethrin if you’re planning to go hiking or camping for an extended period of time.  

Use DEET repellent to keep ticks at bay when you go outside. You should also watch your pets closely – animals that like to roam in tall grass areas are significantly more at risk for tick bites. In the case of the American dog tick, a vector for tularemia, the tick can be brought inside the house while it’s latched onto the dog. If you practice prevention, however, you can avoid contracting serious tick-borne diseases. 

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