Q Fever is a rare disease afflicting agricultural and other animal workers

Carol RoachStarred Page By Carol Roach, 25th Feb 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Health>General Health>Diseases & Infections

This article focuses on a rare livestock transmitted disease known as Q Fever


Though Q Fever is a rare disease it is one that people in the agricultural industry should familiarize themselves with.

Q Fever

People living in urban areas will probably never come across a case of Q feature, but that is not guaranteed for American and Canadian farm workers.. Q fever is an airborne and highly contagious disease that is transmitted through the handling of livestock mainly cattle, goats, and sheep. The disease is a bacterium, which settles in barnyard dust. People contract the disease by inhaling it when they enter a dusty barnyard. The Q fever bacterium settles in the dust.

The origin of Q fever can be traced back to Queensland, Australia where it was known as Query fever in the 1930’s. Though Q fever was first reported in Australia it is suspected to be a disease known all over the world, only researchers feel the disease was never reported in other parts of the world.

Acute symptoms

Q fever has both an acute and a chronic stage to it.

Acute symptoms of Q fever are mainly flu-like symptoms and this could easily be mistaken for the flu. In the acute form, the symptoms will surface approximately three weeks after the initial contact with the bacterium.

These symptoms will actually last for months if they are left untreated. Antibiotics can shorten the time frame for this disease.

The chronic symptoms are more severe and they last even longer.

The Q Fever symptoms to watch out for include:
Fever, which is rather high – 104 or 105 degrees is not unusual.
Headaches, which can be characterized as severe
Sore throat, low energy and fatigue, chills and sweats, a dry cough, even nausea or diarrhea.

Other symptoms include: muscle pain, stomach and abdominal pain, chest pain, and clay colored stools.

Some symptoms to be alert for and differentiate from normal flu symptoms include, jaundice, (yellowish tone to the skin and eyes) and weight loss.

The symptoms of chronic Q fever will include: Prolonged or extended fever, night sweats and chills, fatigue and shortness of breath.

There are some people who are lucky enough not to ever get the disease. However, if people in the agricultural field, do get the disease and it remains untreated and undetected there are some serious consequences. Here are some of the things, which could happen if nothing is done about curing the disease.

Some people will develop a rash that is purple in color; others will develop pneumonia, or hepatitis, pericarditis (their heart will become inflamed), myocarditis, which is the inflammation of the muscle wall of the heart, or meningitis, an inflammation of the brain and spinal chord.

It is encephalitis, the inflammation of the brain (excluding spinal chord), which is the most common cause for fatality. It happens mostly to people already suffering with heart disease, and with people who suffer from a compromised immune system.

Q fever Suspected Causes

Coxiella burnetti is the culprit; this bacterium attacks body organs, especially the heart, brain, liver, lungs and kidneys. Infected animals will carry the disease on their fur or coats and they will also pass it through their stools and urine. Since it is an airborne disease it is quite easy for livestock handlers to inhale this bacteria and since the disease is contagious it can be passed from one person to another. Even though it is even more rare in city dwellers, there have been cases of city dweller who got the disease from their own domesticated pets; rabbits, dogs, birds and cats. The ticks from the animals can jump onto humans.

People, who drink unpasteurized milk, can be at risk for Q fever.

Barnyard animals

A word of caution for Montrealers, if you are around any barnyard animals for any reason and suddenly you come down with the flu, see a doctor since it might just be Q fever.

Doctors run blood tests and ask about your exposure to barnyard animals as well the routine medical history analysis to determine if you have been exposed to the disease. It is therefore important to reveal immediately if you have been around barnyard animals in order to avoid the wrong diagnosis.

Mild cases of Q fever will respond well enough to antibiotics (tetracycline-doxycycline and hydroxychloroquine) , however Q fever is known to recur and it might take as much as three years to completely rid yourself of the disease.

There is a vaccine for Q Fever in Australia and Canada.

According to Health Canada and people will need a blood test and skin test before getting it. There is no vaccine for commercial use yet in the USA.

NOTE: Pregnant women who have been exposed to the disease may spontaneously abort, deliver a baby prematurely, or have a baby with a low birth weight.

Who can get Q Fever

Farm workers, farmers, ranchers, people working in the meat packing industry, truck drivers, people who service the trucks the animal products are transported from.

Meat packers, rendering plant workers, hide and wool handlers

Hunters and trappers

Animal researchers in the laboratory

Livestock owners and people who care for pets such as in a veterinary hospital or pet shop.

Some medical and health care personnel who have contact with blood, sputum or tissue from infected patients.


If you are working with livestock, continually wash your hands especially with disinfectants that will ward off the coxiella burnetti bacterium.

Be careful handling waste matter and animal placenta.

Do not drink unpasteurized milk

If you live in Australia and Canada get the vaccination.

All photos taken from the common domain

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Diseases Humans Get From Animals, Livestock Diseases, Q Fever, Transmitted Diseases From Livestock, Trasmitted Diseases

Meet the author

author avatar Carol Roach
Retired therapist and author of two books, freelance writer, newsletter editor, and blogger. I write, health, mental health, women's issues, animal , celebrity, history, and SEO articles.

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
25th Feb 2015 (#)

I am not familiar with this, but we have sheep, I know that with proper animal husbandry (not too many animals in too little space) it helps prevent disease spreading.

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author avatar Kingwell
25th Feb 2015 (#)

Informative share. Blessings.

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author avatar Retired
25th Feb 2015 (#)

Great post! There are so many things like this information that people don't know. Thank you for letting us know.

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