Q Fever

The Q stands for “query” due to the unknown etiology of the mystery disease when it was first recognized - Mother Nature Network

Q Fever
Q Fever

image by: Kay Foulsham‎

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Disease in the dust

Q fever is an Australian discovery; it was first identified in Queensland in the 1930s. Australia is also the only country in the world where a Q-fever vaccine for humans is available. Once thought to be restricted to abattoir and farm workers, Q fever has recently gained attention following an epidemic in The Netherlands in which more than 4,000 people officially contracted the disease.

Q fever is caused by infection with a bacterium known as Coxiella burnetii (C. burnetii), and people can catch it from animals such as sheep, goats and cattle by breathing in contaminated particles of fluid or dust. In The Netherlands the epidemic centred on a number of infected dairy goat farms, but…

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 Disease in the dust

Every year in Australia over 300 people are reported as suffering from a debilitating disease known as Q fever.


The Australian Q Fever Register stores information on the Q Fever immune status of individuals.

Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety

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. People can also get Q fever by drinking infected milk, and through skin contact but most infections are spread through the air. Person to person transmission occurs rarely, if ever.

Life in the Fastlane

animal encounters: sheep, goats, cattle, dogs, cats, birds, rodents and ticks occupations: farmers, laboratory workers, sheep and dairy workers and vets bacteria shed in birth products, faeces, milk and urine.


Humans are often very susceptible to the disease, and very few organisms may be required to cause infection.

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control

Q fever is… …an infectious disease caused by bacteria called Coxiella burnetii that affects both humans and animals. The “Q” comes from “query” fever, the name of the disease until its true cause was discovered in the 1930s. Q fever can be a mild illness or a more severe disease that can cause death.


About half the people who get Q fever will not show any signs of the illness. Most of the time, Q fever is mistaken for an acute viral illness.


Q fever is transmitted to humans by animals, most commonly sheep, goats and cattle. When you inhale barnyard dust particles contaminated by infected animals, you may become infected. High-risk occupations include farming, veterinary medicine and animal research.


Q fever is an uncommon infectious disease. Animals transmit the disease to humans (this sort of infectious disease is called a zoonosis). Most often, cattle, goats, and sheep transmit Q fever, but it can also come from cats, dogs, rabbits, and other animals.


Q fever is a bacterial infection that can be spread to humans by infected animals – most commonly by sheep, cattle and goats. The infection is found worldwide, but cases in humans are rare in the UK. Around 50 cases of Q fever are reported in the UK each year.


The symptoms of Q fever can vary dramatically from one person to another. Infection can result in no apparent symptoms (asymptomatic); an acute form of disease characterized by a flu-like illness that may go away on its own (self-limited) or can cause other more serious symptoms; or a chronic, long-lasting form that can be associated with serious complications.


The disease was named as Q (for query) fever in 1937 when it was first described, "until fuller knowledge should allow a better name". It can cause acute or chronic disease in humans.


Q fever, an acute zoonotic febrile illness with a worldwide distribution, was discovered first in Australia in 1935 among meat workers. As a cause could not be identified, it was labeled as “Q (query) fever.” This disease has occurred as outbreaks among livestock and farm workers handling ungulates.

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