Tularemia cases confirmed in Colorado

Several cases of tularemia, which is categorized by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as a category A Bioterrorism Agent, were recently reported in four Colorado counties.

Tularemia is a zoonotic infection passed from host to host via arthropod bite, consumption, exposure to bodily fluids during butchering or aerosolization. It has been considered for use as a biological weapon due to the low dose of inhalation required to initiate infection.

Although rare, the disease does occur naturally in the U.S.

Tularemia can be difficult to diagnose due to the similarities to other illnesses resulting in a delay in treatment. Symptoms include sudden fever, chills, headaches, diarrhea, muscle aches, joint pain, dry cough and progressive weakness. Other symptoms depend on how the person was exposed to the tularemia bacteria, and include ulcers on the skin or mouth, swollen and painful lymph glands, swollen and painful eyes, and a sore throat. 

Rapid tests are not currently available for diagnosis. Gentamycin or streptomycin are common antibiotic treatments for the disease. Doxycycline or Ciprofloxacin are commonly used for prophylaxis.

No vaccination is currently available to prevent tularemia. Prompt treatment of tularemia is essential to avoid possible long-term complications.

Organizations in this Story

University of Pennsylvania Medical Center

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