What is Tularemia

Tularemia is a rare disease that is usually passed to humans through a tick bite. The disease can be life-threatening if it is not treated.

What are the causes?

This condition is caused by bacteria. People may get the bacteria from:

  • A bite from an infected tick.
  • A bite from another kind of infected insect, such as a mosquito or fly.
  • Handling an infected animal. Animals that are commonly infected include rabbits, squirrels, beavers, and muskrats.
  • Eating contaminated meat or drinking contaminated water.
  • Breathing in contaminated material, such as dust or hay.

What increases the risk?

You are more likely to develop this condition if:

  • You do outdoor activities for fun. These include hiking, camping, or hunting.
  • You work in activities that create large amounts of dust from the soil. These include farming, mowing, or landscaping.
  • You hunt, trap, or skin wild animals. Your risk is greater if you handle rabbits, muskrats, or prairie dogs.

What are the signs or symptoms?

Symptoms of this condition include:

  • Fever.
  • Chills.
  • A swollen, painful lymph node.
  • Weakness.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Sores (ulcers) at the site of a tick bite.
  • A severe sore throat.
  • Cough.

Symptoms usually begin 3–5 days after being exposed to the bacteria. However, symptoms can start as soon as 1 day after exposure or as long as 21 days after exposure.

Some people may not have any symptoms.

How is this diagnosed?

This condition may be diagnosed with:

  • A physical exam.
  • Your medical history.
  • Your symptoms.
  • A blood test. This may include a blood culture.
  • A test in which a sample of fluid is taken from an ulcer or a lymph node for examination.

How is this treated?

This condition is treated with antibiotic medicine. The antibiotic may be taken by mouth, or it may be given through an IV.

Follow these instructions at home:

  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your health care provider.
  • Take your antibiotic medicine as told by your health care provider. Do not stop taking the antibiotic even if you start to feel better.
  • Drink enough fluid to keep your urine pale yellow.
  • Rest at home while you recover. Return to normal activities as told by your health care provider.
  • Talk with your health care provider about how to prevent future tick bites.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your health care provider. This is important.

How is this prevented?

  • Take steps to avoid tick bites.
    • Cover your skin with light-colored clothing while you are outdoors in the spring and summer months.
    • Apply insect repellent before going outside.
      • Use insect repellent that has DEET (20% or higher), picaridin, or IR3535 in it.
      • You can also use repellent products that contain permethrin on your clothes, shoes, and gear. Do not use permethrin on your skin.
      • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for how to apply repellents.
    • Avoid wooded, grassy, and shaded areas.
    • Remove yard litter, brush, trash, and plants that attract deer and rodents.
    • Check yourself for ticks when you come indoors.
    • Wash your clothing after wearing it outdoors.
    • After your pets have been outdoors, check them for ticks before they come inside.
  • If you find a tick:
    • Remove it with tweezers by grabbing the tick as close to your skin and the tick’s head as possible.
    • Clean your hands and the bite area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.

Contact a health care provider if:

  • Your symptoms do not improve.
  • You develop new symptoms.

Get help right away if you:

  • Have trouble breathing.
  • Have chest pain.
  • Develop a fever.
  • Develop a severe headache.
  • Have a stiff neck.


  • Tularemia is a rare disease that is caused by bacteria. It is usually passed to humans through a tick bite.
  • Symptoms usually begin 3–5 days after being exposed to the bacteria. Symptoms may include fevers, chills, swollen lymph nodes, ulcers at the site of the bite, sore throat, and cough.
  • This condition is treated with antibiotic medicine that is taken by mouth or given through an IV.
  • Follow your health care provider’s instructions for taking medicines, resting during recovery, and preventing tick bites.

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