This came across my desk today:
This is not a drill. This is not a drill. Repeat. This is not a drill. The Pasadena Public Health Department was notified that routine environmental sampling detected traces of the bacteria that can cause tularemia, an infectious disease, at a testing site in Pasadena, California. Our initial investigation indicates that the positive test was likely due to a natural source in the environment and not as a result of a Bioterrorism event. Repeat. Our investigation indicates that the positive test was not as a result of a Bioterrorism event. However,further testing in coordination with Los Angeles County is being performed as a precaution. We have alerted the local medical community and media to inform them of the situation. Pasadena Public Health Department and Los Angeles County Department of Public Health have been in communication with local, state and federal authorities. As a precaution, Los Angeles County and Pasadena Public Health officials have notified area health care providers to be on the alert for individuals with symptoms that could be related to the tularemia infection. Tularemia is not contagious and therefore cannot be spread from person to person. It is treatable with antibiotics. A Health Alert will be sent throughout Los Angeles County. Please direct all media questions to Doctor Wada at 626-831-2500 or Joy Guihama at 626-523-4950. No action is required of you or your department at this time. Repeat. No action is required of you or your department at this time. Thank you.
What is tularemia?
Tularemia, also known as “rabbit fever,” is a disease caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis. Tularemia is typically found in animals, especially rodents, rabbits, and hares. Tularemia is usually a rural disease and has been reported in all U.S. states except Hawaii.
The signs and symptoms people develop depend on how they are exposed to tularemia. Possible symptoms include skin ulcers, swollen and painful lymph glands, inflamed eyes, sore throat, mouth sores, diarrhea or pneumonia. If the bacteria are inhaled, symptoms can include abrupt onset of fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, joint pain, dry cough, and progressive weakness. People with pneumonia can develop chest pain, difficulty breathing, bloody sputum, and respiratory failure. Tularemia can be fatal if the person is not treated with appropriate antibiotics.
Why the concern?
Francisella tularensis is, contrary to what was said below highly infectious, according to the CDC.
A small number of bacteria (10-50 organisms) can cause disease. Further, Francisella tularensis could be used as a bio-weapon. Most likely the bacteria would be made airborne so they could be inhaled.
However, there is no indication at this time that the tularemia detected is from unnatural sources nor that there has been an outbreak. So this constitutes a low level alert.