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Tularemia is a rare infectious disease that is also known as rabbit fever, as the most common form of transmission is through human contact with infected animals. This disease is caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis that normally infects wild animals such as rodents, hares and rabbits, which can infect people and cause complications that can lead to death.
Despite being fatal, tularemia has a simple and effective treatment, and the use of antibiotics is recommended for about 10 to 21 days according to the doctor's advice.
Tularemia is more common in the north of the United States, Europe and Asia, with no cases reported in Brazil, however, in case of occurrence, it is recommended to inform the Ministry of He alth so that the necessary measures are taken, since that it is a notifiable disease.
Symptoms of bacterial infection can take 3 to 14 days, however it is more common for the first symptoms to appear up to 5 days after exposure. Symptoms are usually associated with how the bacteria entered the body, whether through the air, contact with contaminated animals, mucous membranes or ingestion of contaminated water, for example.
The first symptom of tularemia is the appearance of a small wound on the skin that is difficult to heal, usually accompanied by a high fever. Other infrequent symptoms that can happen in the case of bacterial infection are:
- Swollen lymph nodes;
- Weight loss;
- Body aches;
- Dry cough;
- Sore throat;
- Chest pain.
Since symptoms also vary depending on how the bacteria enter the body, there may be:
- Intense sore throat, stomach pain, diarrhea and vomiting, if the person has drunk water contaminated with the bacteria;
- Septicemia or pneumonia, if the bacteria has entered the body through the airways, makes it easier to enter the blood;
- Redness in the eyes, tearing and presence of pus, when the bacteria enters through the eyes.
The diagnosis of tularemia is made from the analysis of symptoms and results of blood and microbiological tests that identify the presence of the bacteria. It is important for the person to be able to identify how the contact with the bacteria happened so that measures can be taken to prevent the infection again.
How the transmission happens
A person can acquire the bacteria responsible for tularemia when they come into contact with ticks, fleas, lice, mosquitoes and flies, and also through consumption of contaminated water, or contact with blood, tissue or animal viscera infected.
The meat of contaminated wild rabbits, even if kept at low temperatures, such as -15ºC, still remains contaminated after 3 years, so in case of an epidemic, it is not recommended to eat rabbits or hares.
Other forms of contamination include eating the meat, being bitten or scratched by the infected animal, and also inhaling dust from contaminated soil, grain or iron.
Thus, to prevent the transmission of tularemia it is important to avoid eating food or drinking water that may be contaminated and to wear gloves and masks when handling a sick or dead animal that may also be contaminated.
How the treatment is done
Despite being a rare and often fatal disease, treatment with antibiotics is quite effective, being able to eliminate the bacteria from the body in a few weeks and avoid complications that could develop as the bacteria proliferated. and spreading.
Thus, the antibiotics normally indicated by the doctor to treat tularemia are Streptomycin, Gentamicin, Doxycycline and Ciprofloxacin, which are normally used for 10 to 21 days according to the stage of the disease and antibiotic chosen by the doctor. It is also important that the test to identify the bacteria is carried out according to the doctor's instructions to verify that the treatment is being effective, and that the need to change or resume treatment is verified.
In pregnant women, babies and children, the doctor may decide to maintain hospital admission to ensure good hydration and during pregnancy, the risk/benefit of using the antibiotics Gentamicin and Ciprofloxacin, which are contraindicated, must be taken into account during pregnancy, but which are the most indicated for the treatment of this infection.