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Q Fever Information, Symptoms and Risk Factors

  • Synopsis: Published: 2011-05-23 - Information on Q fever a bacterial infection disease caused by the bacteria Coxiella burnetii that can affect the lungs liver heart and other parts of the body. For further information pertaining to this article contact: Disabled World.

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Information on Q fever a bacterial infection disease caused by the bacteria Coxiella burnetii that can affect the lungs liver heart and other parts of the body.

What is Q Fever

Q fever is a worldwide bacterial infection disease with acute and chronic stages caused by the bacteria Coxiella burnetii that can affect the lungs, liver, heart, and other parts of the body. Query fever - usually shortened to Q fever, was named by Dr John Derrick, who described an outbreak of a febrile illness that occurred among abattoir workers in 1935. He gave the blood from some of his patients to two microbiologists; Sir MacFarlane-Burnet and Dr R. Freeman, who injected it into guinea pigs and isolated the organism responsible - a bacterium belonging to the rickettsial family now called Coxiella burnetii.

The bacteria affects sheep, goats, cattle, dogs, cats, birds, rodents, and ticks, as well as some other animals. Humans usually get Q fever by breathing in contaminated droplets released by infected animals. Drinking raw milk has also caused infection in rare cases. Humans are often very susceptible to the disease, and very few organisms may be required to cause infection.

Symptoms of Q Fever:

People usually contract Q fever when they breathe in the Q fever microbe. It is very infectious. As few as ten Q fever microbes can start an infection.

Most people with Q fever have no initial symptoms, but some experience flu-like symptoms or develop pneumonia or hepatitis. This acute form of Q fever can lead to chronic Q fever, which is a serious disease that can last three to four years, can affect your heart, liver, brain and lungs, and is often fatal. It usually takes about 20 days after exposure to the bacteria for symptoms to occur. Most cases are mild, yet some severe cases have been reported. Untreated, symptoms can last from 2 to 6 weeks. Most people make a full recovery and become immune to repeat infections.

The initial suspicion of a Q fever diagnosis is based on clinical symptoms and signs. Blood tests are required to confirm the diagnosis with repeated testing after two weeks.

Who is at Risk of Q Fever

People at increased risk of Q fever include:

  • farmers and shearers
  • stockyard workers and animal transporters
  • veterinarians, veterinary assistants and veterinary students
  • agriculture college staff and students (working with high-risk animals)
  • abattoir and meat workers (including contractors who visit these facilities)
  • laboratory workers (working with the bacteria or with high-risk veterinary specimens)

Symptoms of acute Q fever may include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Jaundice
  • Headache
  • Muscle pains
  • Clay-colored stools
  • Rash (not common)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain with breathing

Symptoms of Chronic Q fever May Include:

  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Night sweats
  • Prolonged fever
  • Shortness of breath


Acute Q fever usually clears up within a few weeks with no treatment. If you have symptoms, your doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics. The antibiotic tetracycline (doxycycline) is often used to treat Q fever. Patients usually recover promptly when treatment is started without delay. Chronic Q fever requires specific antibiotic treatment, multiple follow-up tests and possibly surgery.


A vaccine (Q-Vax®) is available to protect people against Q fever. Vaccination is recommended for all people who are working in, or intend to work in, a high-risk occupation. Workplaces at risk should have a vaccination program in place.

Related Information:

  1. Q Fever Test for Military Personnel Serving Overseas

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