Tularemia

History

Francisella tularensis was identified as a distinct organism in 1911 during an investigation of a plague-like disease in rodents in Tulare County, California. Dr. Edward Francis, USPHS, established the cause of "deer-fly fever" as Bacterium tularense and subsequently devoted his life to researching the organism and disease, hence, the organism was later renamed Francisella tularensis. F. tularensis has been responsible for large epidemics in the past. During WWII and the German siege of Stalingrad, there were perhaps hundreds of thousands of human cases and many were pulmonary, leading to speculation that this may have resulted from the intentional use of tularemia as a biological weapon. However, there was also an ongoing and concurrent epizootic in rodents and thousands of human cases were documented in the area before the siege. This of course suggests a natural cause for the epidemic. In Sweden during the winter of 1966-67, hundreds of cases, most of which were pulmonary, occurred in farmers who processed hay contaminated by infected rodents.

Francisella tularensis was weaponized by the United States in the 1950s and 1960s during the U.S. offensive BW program. In addition, other countries are suspected to have weaponized this agent as well. This organism can be stabilized for weaponization by an adversary and produced in either a wet or dried form for delivery against U.S. forces in fashion similar to the other bacteria discussed in this handbook.

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