Q fever update


  • Paula I. Menzies Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada N1G 2W1




Coxiella burnetii, sheep, goat, abortion, stillbirth, Q fever, antimicrobial, vaccine, environment, zoonosis


Infection in animals and humans from the bacterium Coxiella burnetii is responsible for significant disease risk. In sheep and goats it is an important cause of abortion, stillbirth, and neonatal weakness and mortality, although the organism may be present and shed in birth fluids, milk and feces without signs of disease. Infection in these species, as well as cattle, is widespread. Humans who work with infected ruminants are at risk of developing mild to severe disease, called Q fever. Chronic Q fever is particularly dangerous, with a high case fatality rate. Treatment with antimicrobials to control abortion or reduce bacterial shedding is unrewarding in sheep and goats. Vaccination has been shown to reduce abortions and degree of shedding, but currently no vaccine is licensed in the US or Canada. Measures to lower risk of infection in humans include lowering the level of contamination of the environment with the bacteria, understanding the signs in people so that treatment can be given promptly, and using protective wear to reduce exposure. This is an important zoonosis, and education of clients and service providers is a critical component of reducing the risk of Q fever.






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