Pest Borne Diseases: Tularemia

When we speak about insects that carry diseases, what usually come to mind are the mosquitoes.  Their notoriety is truly deserved for all the damages they have caused.  Unfortunately, the mosquitoes are not the only insects we have to look out for.  Fleas, those little blood sucking insects, are just as capable of transmitting diseases that are so dangerous that those infected would require medical attention.

Here in the United States, cases are relatively few; but with the expected rise in temperature, diseases spread by fleas have the potential to rise even further.  Among these diseases are the bubonic plague, tungiansis, Murine typhus, and tularemia.

Overview of tularemia

Tularemia is an illness that is transferred to humans via flea or tick bites.  Fleas get infected by feeding on rodents’ blood, and when they latch on to a human after that, the bites would facilitate the transfer of the bacteria.  The bacteria that causes tularemia is called Francisella tularensis.  The disease  was named after Tulare County, California.  The disease was first discovered in 1911 in Tulare County.

Tularemia usual infects rabbits, rodents, squirrels and birds.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms would depend on how the bacteria enters the body.  In an ulceroglandular tularemia, there is high fever, skin ulcer at the site of where the bacteria entered the body, and swelling of regional lymph glands.  Glandular tularemia features the same signs and symptoms.

Another form of tularemia, the pneumonic tularemia, is the most dangerous of all.  Symptoms are difficulty in breathing, chest pains, and cough.  This sometime occur when an ulceroglandular tularemia is left untreated, and the bacteria was spread to the lungs through the bloodstream.


To check for tularemia, it is very important to inform your health care provider if you were in contact with fleas or ticks; inform the health care provider of any travels outside the country.  Without this information, it will be very hard to diagnose as it shows the same symptoms as other diseases.

Tests that can confirm if a patient has Tularemia are the following:

  • A serology test for antibodies created by your body to fight the bacteria
  • Blood tests
  • A skin biopsy of a lesion and a microscopic exam to look for the presence of tularemia
  • A bone marrow biopsy
  • A pleural fluid test to test the fluid from the pleurae in the chest cavity

For treatment, antibiotics like streptomycin, gentamicin, doxycycline, and ciprofloxacin are used.  Treatment may last 10 to 21 days.  Medication for fever and pain might also be given.

If needed surgical intervention may be done to drain swollen lymph nodes or remove infected tissues. Tularemia can be fatal about 2 % of the time.


We must take extra precautions to avoid being infected with tularemia.  When going outdoors, wear long sleeves and pants to avoid flea or tick bites.  Use Environment Protection Agency – registered insect repellents that contain DEET.  Then once you get home, inspect your clothing and your entire body for fleas.  You can remove the fleas using tweezers. If you suspect that you or a loved one has tularemia, call your doctor immediately.

Secondly, you can hire a pest control operator nearby to help you inspect your home for any fleas activities. You can hire highly trained  flea exterminators in Lake Norman if you live nearby

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