Q fever is a worldwide disease with acute and chronic stages caused by the bacteria Coxiella burnetii. Cattle, sheep, and goats are the primary reservoirs although a variety of species may be infected. Organisms are excreted in milk, urine, and feces of infected animals. During birthing, the organisms are shed in high numbers within the amniotic fluids and the placenta. The organism is extremely hardy and resistant to heat, drying, and many common disinfectants which enable the bacteria to survive for long periods in the environment. Infection of humans usually occurs by inhalation of these organisms from air that contains airborne barnyard dust contaminated by dried placental material, birth fluids, and excreta of infected animals. Other modes of transmission to humans, including tick bites, ingestion of unpasteurized milk or dairy products, and human to human transmission, are rare. Humans are often very susceptible to the disease, and very few organisms may be required to cause infection.
CDC Expert Commentary, May 13, 2013
Q Fever Guidelines
- Page last reviewed: June 7, 2013
- Page last updated: March 16, 2015
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