Tularemia is a rare and potentially serious disease caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis. People can be exposed to the bacteria in a number of ways, and the symptoms of the disease vary depending upon the route of exposure. Regardless of the way the disease is contracted, most people with tularemia develop a sudden fever. Other symptoms can include chills, headaches, ulcers, enlarged lymph nodes, diarrhea, muscle aches, joint pain, dry cough and progressive weakness. Symptoms typically begin three to five days after exposure to the bacteria.
While tularemia is fatal in some cases, the disease can be successfully treated with antibiotics. People who contract tularemia and receive treatment typically recover completely.
Humans can be infected with tularemia by handling infected rodent or rabbit carcasses, through the bite of an infected tick or biting fly, eating contaminated food, drinking contaminated water or by breathing in the bacteria.
Tularemia in Vermont
Tularemia is a rare disease in Vermont. The last major outbreak in the state occurred in 1968 when 47 people in Addison County were diagnosed within a four-week period. Everyone who fell ill in that outbreak had a history of handling or trapping muskrats. There has only been one reported case in Vermont since 2011. That case occurred in 2014.