Left untreated, tularemia can be fatal. Other possible complications include:

  • Inflammation of the lungs (pneumonia). Pneumonia can lead to respiratory failure — a condition in which the lungs don't take in enough oxygen, release enough carbon dioxide or both.
  • Infection around the brain and spinal cord (meningitis). Meningitis is a serious and sometimes life-threatening infection of the fluid and membranes (meninges) surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Signs and symptoms of bacterial meningitis include high fever, severe headache, stiff neck and sensitivity to light. If not treated promptly, bacterial meningitis can cause brain damage and even death.
  • Irritation around the heart (pericarditis). This is swelling and irritation of the pericardium, the thin membrane that surrounds the heart. Mild pericarditis often improves without treatment, but more-serious cases may require antibiotic therapy.
  • Bone infection (osteomyelitis). Tularemia bacteria sometimes spread to the bones, leading to pain, decreased range of motion in nearby joints, and sometimes to skin redness, tenderness or open sores in the affected areas.
Aug. 30, 2012