Q Fever

Cause: Bacterium Coxiella burnetii.

Illness and treatment: Acute Q fever symptoms are fevers, chills, retrobulbar headache, malaise, weakness, and severe sweats. Chronic Q fever manifests primarily as endocarditis. Treatment is with antibiotics.

Sources: The most common reservoirs are sheep, cattle, and goats. Infected animals are usually asymptomatic, but shed the organism in birth products as well as urine, feces, and milk. A common exposure mechanism is inhalation of dust from premises contaminated by placental tissues, birth fluids, or excreta of infected animals.

Prevention: Consume only pasteurized milk and dairy products. Appropriately dispose of animal birth products. Restrict access to barns and facilities housing potentially infected animals.

Recent Washington trends: Each year there are 0 to 2 reports.

Purpose of Reporting and Surveillance

  • To identify the source of infection (e.g., an outbreak at a rendering plant or farm) and prevent further transmission from that source to others.
  • To educate potentially exposed persons about signs and symptoms of disease, thereby facilitating early diagnosis.
  • To raise the index of suspicion of a possible bioterrorism event if no natural exposure source is identified.

Legal Reporting Requirements

  • Health care providers: notifiable to local health jurisdiction within 24 hours.
  • Health care facilities: notifiable to local health jurisdiction within 24 hours.
  • Laboratories: Coxiella burnetii notifiable to local health jurisdiction within 24 hours; specimen submission is required – culture (2 business days).
  • Veterinarians: Suspected human cases notifiable within 24 hours to the local health jurisdiction; animal cases notifiable to Washington State Department of Agriculture (see: https://app.leg.wa.gov/wac/default.aspx?cite=16-70)
  • Local health jurisdictions: notifiable to DOH Office of Communicable Disease Epidemiology (CDE) within 7 days of case investigation completion or summary information required within 21 days.