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What is Q fever?

Q fever, or query fever, is a health condition caused by the bacteria Coxiella burnetii. This bacterium is usually found in farm animals like cows, goat and sheep. The humans affected by these bacteria are usually veterinarians, farmers and those who work around these bacteria in labs. It is common to have either no symptoms or mild ones when suffering this condition. Some serious forms may also develop, but the condition can be cured with medication.

What are its main signs and symptoms?

Symptoms of Q fever do not show immediately. It takes a couple of weeks of the bacteria being in the body before any signs are visible. Typical symptoms are:

What are the main causes?

The bacteria that cause Q fever are most commonly found in cattle, goats and sheep. The bacteria are usually lodged in the urine, faeces and milk of these animals, and spread mostly through dust, which is breathed in by those in contact with the animals. It is not possible for Q fever to spread from one person to another.

How is it diagnosed and treated?

Since the symptoms are largely generalised, it can be hard to diagnose Q fever right away. However, physical examination positive for the typical symptoms of Q fever and a patient history of working around animals can give the doctor a fair assessment of the condition. An antibody test is the best way to diagnose Q fever, but it usually returns negative if conducted within 10 days of being infected.

If Q fever is mild, it usually subsides within a few days without any medication. For more severe forms, antibiotics may be prescribed for between 2 to 3 weeks, sometimes even without laboratory results. Antibiotics may be given for as long as 18 months in cases where the condition is chronic.

  1. Medicines for Q Fever

References

  1. Center for Disease Control and Prevention [internet], Atlanta (GA): US Department of Health and Human Services; Q Fever.
  2. National Health Service [Internet]. UK; Q fever.
  3. Maurin M, Raoult D. Q Fever. Clin Microbiol Rev. 1999 Oct;12(4):518-53. PMID: 10515901
  4. Angelakis E,Raoult D. Q Fever. Vet Microbiol. 2010 Jan 27;140(3-4):297-309. PMID: 19875249
  5. SA Health [Internet]. Government of South Africa; Q fever - including symptoms, treatment and prevention.

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