Tularemia is a potentially serious illness that occurs naturally in the United States. It is caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis found in animals (especially rodents, rabbits, and hares) and is highly infectious. Tularemia has long been considered a potential biological weapon because of its extreme infectivity, ease of dissemination, and substantial capacity to cause illness and death. If F. tularensis was used as a weapon, the bacteria would likely be made airborne for exposure by inhalation. People who inhale an infectious aerosol would generally experience severe respiratory illness, including life-threatening pneumonia and systemic infection, if they are not treated. The main concern for public health is the transmission of the disease through ingestion of water from a contaminated water supply and/or inhalation of contaminated dusts or aerosol, both of which are conducive to potential bioterrorism attacks. Tularemia is not contagious, meaning it is NOT spread from one person to another person. Antibiotics can prevent tularemia from developing in people who have been exposed but have not developed symptoms. In this case antibiotics would be available through a POD site.
In the event of a weaponized tularemia attack or outbreak, the Washoe County Health District will announce detailed instructions on how to obtain preventive medication through a point of dispensing (POD) site. This information will be available through the media and on this website.
Last modified on 07/21/2015