A rickettsial infection transmitted to humans by contact with farm animals
- Working with farm animals or meat is a risk factor
- Age, gender, and genetics are not significant factors
Labelled Q for “query” before the source of the infection was identified, Q fever is caused by the rickettsial bacterium Coxiella burnetii. The bacteria are carried by livestock such as cows, sheep, and goats and can be transmitted through urine, faeces, and milk, or inhaled in dust contaminated with particles of tissue from infected animals.
Within 2–3 weeks of infection, a high fever, severe headache, muscle pain, and cough may suddenly occur. The symptoms usually disappear in 1–2 weeks, but, in some people, infection spreads and damages the heart valves (see Infective endocarditis) and the liver (see Acute hepatitis).
Q fever can be accurately diagnosed by a blood test. In mild cases, the symptoms clear up by themselves and treatment is not necessary. More severe cases may need treatment with antibiotics.
From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.
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