Background: Clinical recognition of tularemia is essential for prompt initiation of appropriate antibiotic treatment. Although fluoroquinolones have desirable attributes as a treatment option, limited data on efficacy in the US setting exist.
Methods: To define the epidemiology of tularemia in Missouri, and to evaluate practices and outcomes of tularemia management in general, we conducted a detailed retrospective review and analysis of clinical records for patients reported to the state from 2000 to 2007.
Results: We reviewed records of 121 of 190 patients (64%) reported with tularemia; 79 (65%) were males; the median age was 37 years. Most patients presented with ulceroglandular (37%) and glandular (25%) forms of tularemia, followed by pneumonic (12%), typhoidal (10%), oculoglandular (3%), and oropharyngeal (2%) forms. Most cases (69%) were attributed to tick bites. Median incubation period was 3 days (range, 1-9 days), and patients sought care after a median of 3 days of illness (range, 0-44 days). Systemic disease occurred more commonly in older patients. Patients were prescribed tetracyclines (49%), aminoglycosides (47%), and fluoroquinolones (41%). Nine of 10 patients treated with ciprofloxacin for ≥10 days recovered uneventfully, without accompanying aminoglycosides or tetracyclines.
Conclusions: Tularemia is frequently initially misdiagnosed. A thorough exposure history, particularly for tick bites, and awareness of clinical features may prompt clinicians to consider tularemia and facilitate appropriate testing. Promising success with oral fluoroquinolones could provide an acceptable alternative to intravenous aminoglycosides or long courses of tetracyclines where clinically appropriate.