Diagnosis

Because it's rare and because it shares symptoms with other diseases, tularemia may be difficult to diagnose. Doctors may check for F. tularensis in a blood or sputum sample that's cultured to encourage the growth of the bacteria.

Sometimes tularemia can be identified by antibodies to the bacteria in a sample of blood, but these only develop several weeks after infection. You're also likely to have a chest X-ray to look for signs of pneumonia.

Treatment

Tularemia can be effectively treated with antibiotics such as streptomycin or gentamicin, which are given by injection directly into a muscle or vein. Depending on the type of tularemia being treated, doctors may prescribe oral antibiotics such as doxycycline (Oracea, Vibramycin, others) instead.

You'll also receive therapy for any complications such as meningitis or pneumonia. In general, you should be immune to tularemia after recovering from the disease, but some people may experience a recurrence or reinfection.

Preparing for your appointment

You're likely to start by seeing your primary care doctor. However, in some cases when you call to set up an appointment, you may be referred immediately to an infectious diseases specialist.

Here's information to help you prepare for your appointment.

What you can do

  • List your symptoms, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
  • Write down key personal information, especially recent activities, such as hunting or gardening or traveling to tick-infested areas.
  • Take a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements you're taking.
  • Write down questions to ask your doctor.

Preparing a list of questions for your doctor will help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important. For tularemia, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:

  • What's the most likely cause of my symptoms?
  • Are there other possible causes for my symptoms?
  • What tests do I need?
  • What treatments are available? And, what side effects can I expect?
  • I have other health conditions. How can I best manage these conditions together?
  • Are there brochures or other printed material I can take with me? What websites do you recommend?

Don't hesitate to ask any other questions you may have.

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, including:

  • When did you begin experiencing symptoms?
  • Have you been hunting, gardening or traveling to tick-heavy areas recently?
  • Have your symptoms been continuous or do they come and go?
  • How severe are your symptoms?
  • Does anything improve your symptoms?
  • Is there anything that makes your symptoms worse?
July 08, 2015
References
  1. Tularemia. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/tularemia/. Accessed June 21, 2015.
  2. Penn RL. Epidemiology, microbiology, and pathogenesis of tularemia. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 21, 2015.
  3. Longo DL, et al, eds. Tularemia. In: Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 19th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2015. http://www.accessmedicine.com. Accessed June 21, 2015.
  4. Penn RL. Clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and treatment of tularemia. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 21, 2015.
  5. Tickborne diseases of the United States — A reference manual for health care providers. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/healthcare/clinicians.html. Accessed June 21, 2015.
  6. Game from farm to table. USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/meat-preparation/game-from-farm-to-table/. Accessed June 21, 2015.