- A rapid diagnostic test for tularemia does not exist.
- A chest X-ray may confirm inhalational tularemia.
- Blood tests can confirm the presence of tularemia bacteria.
- All forms of tularemia can be successfully treated with antibiotics, including streptomycin, gentamicin, or doxycycline.
- The choice of antibiotics is determined by the patient's age and health and the availability of the drug when weighed against the number of cases in an area.
- Physicians prefer the injection of antibiotics for more effective results.
- An investigational vaccine for tularemia was developed but is currently unavailable. When it was in use, it was in limited distribution, mainly to lab workers.
- The vaccine is not useful for people who have already been exposed to tularemia.
- The current vaccine does not fully protect against inhalational tularemia.
- Research continues on a next-generation vaccine for inhalational tularemia; more information is available at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases website (www2.niaid.nih.gov/biodefense).
- Avoid contact with dead animals that may be infected.
- Decontaminate yourself with soap and water if you have come into contact with the bacteria.
- Decontaminate surfaces using solutions that are a combination of bleach and alcohol.
Assessing the Risk
- Although the disease can occur naturally, it is rare, so the bacteria are only moderately available.
- Tularemia bacteria are minimally stable, since even moderate heat and disinfectants can kill the organism.
- Terrorists would have to be highly skilled to use tularemia in an attack because the bacteria are difficult to process and stabilize into a form that can do great harm. A waterborne attack would require too great of an amount of the bacteria to poison the water, since chlorine added to most drinking water would kill the bacteria.
- When treated with antibiotics, tularemia has a low lethality.
More information on disasters and emergencies is available at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's website: http://www.hhs.gov/emergency