Lapis ISSN 2398-2969

Tularemia

Synonym(s): Francisella tularensis

Contributor(s): Vetstream Ltd, Susan Dawson, Rhea Morgan, Ron Rees Davies, Molly Varga

Introduction

  • Zoonotic disease that can infect many domestic and wild animals, including dogs, cats and rabbits.
  • CauseFrancisella tularensis Francisella tularensis, a gram-negative, non-spore forming, rod-shaped bacteria.
  • Classification as a Category A agent of bioterrorism.
  • Signs: acute febrile disease.
  • Diagnosis: histopathology, culture, serology.
  • Treatment: empirical antibiosis and supportive care if indicated.

Potentially zoonotic.

  • Prognosis: poor.

Presenting signs

Rabbits
  • Acute febrile illness.
  • Lethargy.
Cats
  • Acute febrile illness, anorexia, dehydration, listlessness, lymphadenopathy, draining abscesses, oral or lingual ulcers, pneumonia, icterus, splenomegaly, hepatomegaly.
Dogs
  • Can develop similar signs to cats but more usually subclinical.

Geographic incidence

  • Occurs within temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, United States, mainland Europe.
  • Two serovars of F. tularensis occur in North America:
    • Type A occurs only in North America and is found in tick reservoirs. It occurs predominantly in rabbits (mainly native Sylvilagus spp).
    • Type B occurs throughout the Northern Hemisphere and may infect ticks, mosquitoes, rodents, water, and other material. It is much less common in rabbits than Type A.
  • To date has not been reported in pet rabbits within the UK.

Public health considerations

  • In the USA lagomorphs are reported to be most important in the transmission to humans. Infection from wild Sylvilagus rabbits via a tick vector is common. Direct infection from handling a dead carcass is also possible. Zoonotic infection from Oryctolagus rabbits is rare and possibly non-existent.
  • Transmission to people can also occur via scratches or bites from infected animals.
  • Mortality rate in human tularemia is <2%.
  • Most human cases of tularemia are caused by Type A serovars, and the human disease is therefore rarely seen in Europe.

Special risks

  • Transmitted by ticks and other biting insects, ingestion, inhalation and from infected fomites.
  • Tick vectors for dogs and cats in the USA include Dermacentor andersoniDermancentor variabilisDermancentor occidentalis, and Amblyomma americanum.

Pathogenesis

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Diagnosis

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Treatment

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Prevention

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Further Reading

Publications

Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Feldman K A (2003) Tularemia. JAVMA 222 (6), 725-730 PubMed.
  • Hoff G I (1975) Tularemia in Florida: Sylvilagus palustris as a source of human infectionJ Wildl Dis 11 (4), 560-561 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Kaufman K A (1998) Tularaemia. Ed: Greene C E. In: Infectious diseases of the Dog and Cat. 2nd edn. W B Saunders.
  • Delong D, Manning P J (1994) Bacterial diseases. In: The Biology of the Laboratory Rabbit. Eds: Manning P J, Ringler D H & Newcomer C E. 2nd edn. Academic Press. pp 130-170.
  • Harkness J E & Wagner J E (1977) Specific diseases and Conditions: Tularemia. In: The Biology and Medicine of Rabbits and Rodents. 3rd edn. Lea & Febiger, USA. pp 197-198.


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