HAE

What is Q Fever? 
Q Fever is a disease caused by a bacteria, Coxiella burnetii.  People who have frequent direct contact with livestock are at higher risk for getting the illness.

Goat eating from kids handHow common is Q Fever infection?
The disease was first recognized in Australia in 1937, but cases are now reported from many parts around the world.  People with animal contact, veterinarians, meat industry workers, and sheep and dairy farmers are at higher risk of getting Q Fever.  

What are the symptoms of Q Fever?
Illness typically develops 2-3 weeks after being exposed to the bacteria. Only about one-half of all people infected with C. burnetii show signs of illness. For people who become ill, the first symptoms of Q fever resemble the flu and may include fever, chills, sweats, headache, and weakness. Q fever may rarely progress to affect the liver, nervous system, or heart valve. Q Fever is rarely fatal.

Symptoms can be mild or severe.  People who develop severe disease may experience infection of the lungs (pneumonia) or liver (hepatitis). Women who are infected during pregnancy may be at risk for miscarriage, stillbirth, pre-term delivery, or low infant birth weight.

A very small percentage of people (less than 5 out of 100) who become infected with C. burnetii bacteria develop a more serious infection called chronic Q fever. Chronic Q fever develops months or years following initial Q fever infection. People with chronic Q fever often develop an infection of one or more heart valves (called endocarditis). People with endocarditis may experience night sweats, fatigue, shortness of breath, weight loss, or swelling of their limbs. A healthcare provider will need to perform a series of tests to diagnose endocarditis.

How is Q Fever spread?
Most people get Q fever by coming in contact with animals infected with the Q fever bacteria, their tissues, or fluids. Transmission may occur through breathing contaminated air or dust from an area with a large concentration of animals. Tissues from animals giving birth pose a higher risk, since the bacteria can be shed in large numbers when an infected animal gives birth. People can also become infected indirectly from animals through contaminated materials like wool, straw, and animal waste fertilizers. Transmission by tick bites can occur, but is rare in the United States. There is a risk of Q fever from consumption of contaminated raw milk.

C. burnetii can survive for long periods of time in the environment and may be carried long distances by wind.

Although cases of Q fever can occur during any month of the year, most cases report illness beginning in the spring and early summer months, peaking in April and May. These increases coincide with increases in outdoor activity, and with the birthing season for a number of domestic animal species.

When to call your healthcare provider
Consult your healthcare provider if you have symptoms consistent with Q Fever and potential animal exposure.

How is Q Fever diagnosed?
Q fever is diagnosed by identifying the bacteria in tissues or through a blood test that detects antibody to the organism.

How is Q Fever infection treated?
Patients with mild transient illness usually do not require treatment. Patients with severe Q fever infection may be treated with two to three weeks of antibiotics. Patients with heart valve deformities should see their doctor for treatment to prevent infection of their heart valve. If treatment is delayed until late (i.e., heart) symptoms occur, patients may need to take antibiotics for months or years. If permanent damage to the heart valve occurs, surgery may be necessary.

How do I avoid Q Fever infection?
Livestock owners should seek veterinary assistance if their animals have reproductive or other health problems. Animal placentas, other birth products, and aborted fetuses should be disposed of immediately.

Reduce your risk of getting Q fever by avoiding contact with animals, especially while animals are giving birth. Animals can be infected with Coxiella burnetii and appear healthy.

Do not consume raw milk or raw milk products.

Is there anything special I need to know? Exclusions, hand washing,

If you have been diagnosed with Q fever and have a history of heart valve disease, blood vessel abnormalities, a weakened immune system, or are pregnant, talk to your healthcare provider about your risk for developing chronic Q fever.