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Tularemia is caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis which naturally infects animals, especially rodents, rabbits, and hares. People become infected by the bite of an arthropod (most commonly ticks and deerflies) that has fed on an infected animal, or by being bitten by an infected animal, handling infected animal carcasses, eating or drinking contaminated food or water, or by inhaling infected aerosols in a laboratory setting. The use of F. tularensis as a weapon of bioterrorism is of concern because it is highly infectious. As few as 10 to 50 organisms can cause disease.

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Tularemia in King County

Purpose of surveillance:

  • To identify and eliminate sources of transmission including contaminated food and water
  • To identify cases caused by potential agents of bioterrorism

Tularemia case data

Local epidemiology:

  • One case of glandular tularemia was reported in 2015 in a man whose only identified risk factor was periodically mowing the lawn. He did not require hospitalization for the infection. The last reported case of tularemia was in 2013 in an adult with ulceroglandular tularemia from a cat scratch; the case was not hospitalized.
    Zero to two cases have been reported each year in King County over the past ten years.

  • Approximately 200 human cases of tularemia are reported annually in the United States, mostly in persons living in the south-central and western states. Each year in Washington state between two and eight cases are reported.