Tularemia is caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis found
in animals, most commonly rodents, rabbits and hares.
are several ways the disease can be contracted, such as being bitten
by an infected insect, tick or deerfly; handling infected animal carcasses;
eating or drinking contaminated food or water; or breathing in the
F. tularensis bacteria.
tularensis could be used as a bioweapon by making the bacteria airborne.
The bacteria that cause tularemia occur widely in nature and could be
isolated and grown in a laboratory, although manufacturing an effective
aerosol weapon would require considerable sophistication.
of the disease include a sudden fever, chills, headaches, muscle aches,
joint pain, dry cough, progressive weakness and pneumonia. Other symptoms
depend on how the disease was contracted and can include ulcers on the
skin or mouth, swollen and painful lymph glands or eyes, and a sore
throat. Symptoms usually appear three to five days after exposure to
the bacteria, but sometimes patients do not develop symptoms for up
to 14 days.
disease is not known to be spread from person to person. Those infected
should begin taking antibiotics as soon as possible since the disease
can be fatal if it is not treated. A vaccine for tularemia is being
reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration and is not currently available
in the United States.