Q fever is an illness caused by the bacteria Coxiella Burnetti characterized by fever, chills, pain behind the eyes, sweats, cough and elevated liver enzymes. Chronic infection may present as fever without any clear associated findings.

Where does it occur?

Q fever occurs worldwide.

How is it transmitted?

It is transmitted by inhaling air contaminated with dust from the feces or afterbirth (placenta) of infected animals like cattle, sheep, dogs and cats. Ingesting raw milk from infected cattle can also result in infection.

Is it contagious from person to person?

It may rarely be contagious from person to person.

What is the risk for travelers?

The risk is low for travelers; however those engaged in veterinary, dairy or animal research work are at higher risk.

How soon after exposure will one develop symptoms?

Symptoms usually develop 2-3 weeks after exposure.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Acute illness is heralded by fever, chills, headache, and pain behind the eyes, drenching sweats and dry cough. An elevated liver enzyme test and exposure history may be the only clues to this diagnosis.

A chronic infection that can involve the heart valves is characterized by low-grade fevers that persist for weeks without any other symptoms.

Are there any lab tests to diagnose the illness?

Commonly an ELISA blood antibody test against Coxiella Burnetti showing a 4 fold increase over time is used for diagnosis.

Is there any treatment?

Tetracycline for 15-21 days is the treatment of choice for acute illness. For chronic infection of heart valves the treatment is with intravenous antibiotics and is prolonged.

What preventive measures can be taken?

Those involved in contact with animals should practice disinfection procedures strictly and dispose of after birth products, feces and carcasses carefully. Ingest only properly pasteurized milk and milk products.

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