Kosovo reports tularemia epidemic

This Gram-stained photomicrograph revealed the presence of numerous Gram-negative Francisella tularensis bacteria, which is the organism responsible for causing tularemia. | Courtesy of the CDC

The Kosovo Institute of Public Health reported a tularemia epidemic on Tuesday.

So far, there have been 206 reported cases of the highly infectious disease, but no fatalities.

Also known as Pahvant Valley plague, rabbit fever, Ohara's fever and deer fly fever, tularemia is caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers Francisella tularensis to be a Category A bio-terrorism threat because of its contagiousness and potential to be fatal. The U.S., Russia and Japan have in the past included the bacterium in their biological weaponry programs. 

Usually fatal in small mammals, tularemia can be spread to humans through bites from ticks and deer flies, consuming contaminated water, skin contact with an infected animal, or inhaled in the form of dust or aerosols.

Symptoms of tularemia include fever, headaches, chills, diarrhea, muscle and joint pain, and progressive weakness. If the bacterium is inhaled, it also presents respiratory symptoms  such as chest pain or lethal forms of pneumonia. It also can lead to systemic infections.

Traditionally it takes three to five days for symptoms to appear, but can take as many as 14 days. The disease has been successfully treated with antibiotics.

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 1600 Clifton Rd Atlanta, GA 30329

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