Q Fever (Query Fever)

What is Q fever?

Q fever is caused by an infection with a bacterium known as Coxiella burnetii. It is an illness characterized by:

  • Sudden onset of fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Muscle aches
  • Malaise (a general sick feeling)
  • Severe sweats

The infection occurs worldwide.

Who gets Q fever?

Q fever is a rare disease, but anyone can get Q fever if they are infected with C. burnetii bacteria.

People at highest risk for Q fever are those who work with animals that are infected, including:

  • Veterinarians
  • Meat workers
  • Sheep workers
  • Farmers

C. burnetii may be found in:

  • Sheep
  • Cattle
  • Goats
  • Cats
  • Dogs
  • Some wild animals (including bandicoots and many wild rodents)
  • Birds
  • Ticks

How is Q fever spread?

  • Q fever is spread to humans primarily through airborne dissemination of contaminated dust.
    • Dust becomes contaminated with C. burnetii bacteria that are present in the tissues or bodily fluids of infected animals
    • Contaminated dust may be spread for up to half a mile.
  • Direct contact with infected animals or materials that they have contaminated (such as straw or other bedding materials) may also cause an infection.
  • Drinking raw or unpasteurized milk from infected cows or goats may be a source this disease.
  • Direct person-to-person spread is very uncommon, but can happen

What are the symptoms of Q fever?

Q fever is characterized by:

  • Sudden onset of fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Muscle aches
  • Malaise (a general sick feeling)
  • Severe sweats

Other complications may occur, including:

  • Pneumonitis (inflammation of the lungs)
  • Abnormal liver function tests
  • Chronic endocarditis (inflammation of the heart)
  • Neurologic problems

How soon after exposure do symptoms appear?

This is variable, but 2-3 weeks after exposure is the most common.

How is Q fever diagnosed?

Blood tests can be used to diagnose Q fever.

What is the treatment for Q fever?

Doctors can prescribe antibiotics for Q fever.

How can Q fever be prevented?

People who work with animals who may be infected need to know the signs and symptoms of Q fever and seek treatment if they feel they could be infected.

There is a Q fever vaccine that is currently not available for general use, but may be available through the Department of Defense for people who are known to be at high risk for exposure.

Where can I get more information?

Contact your physician or the Southern Nevada Health District, Office of Epidemiology at (702) 759-1300.

Contact Information

Phone:
(702) 759-1000

Updated on: August 21, 2018