Tularemia is a serious infectious disease caused by the intracellular bacterium Francisella tularensis. A Gram-negative pleomorphic coccobacillus, the bacterium has several subspecies with varying degrees of virulence.
In the 1950s, thousands of people were infected each year. This number has dropped considerably, to less than 200 each year, and those who are infected now tend to be those who are exposed to the organism in its rural habitat.
Treatment usually lasts 10 to 21 days depending on the stage of illness and the medication used. Although symptoms may last for several weeks, most patients completely recover.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regard F. tularensis as a viable biological warfare agent, and it has been included in the biological warfare programs of the United States, Soviet Union and Japan.