About Q fever

Key points

  • Symptoms of Q fever can be mild or severe.
  • There is not a vaccine to prevent Q fever available for use in the United States.
  • Your healthcare provider may order certain blood tests if you are suspected to have Q fever.
  • Most people who have Q fever will recover without antibiotics, but for symptomatic patients, doxycycline is the recommended antibiotic for treatment of Q fever.
Two goats grazing in a field


Q fever is a disease caused by the bacteria Coxiella burnetii. These bacteria naturally infect some animals, such as goats, sheep, and cows. These bacteria are found in the birth products (i.e. placenta, amniotic fluid), urine, poop, and milk of infected animals. People can get infected by breathing in dust that has been contaminated by infected animal feces, urine, milk, and birth products. Some people never get sick; however, those who do usually develop flu-like symptoms including fever, chills, fatigue, and muscle pain. Some people develop chronic Q fever after they are infected.

Risk factors

People with certain jobs are at increased risk for exposure to Coxiella burnetii, including veterinarians, meat processing plant workers, dairy workers, livestock ranchers, and researchers at facilities housing sheep and goats. People working in these areas may need to take extra precautions (see MMWR R&R: Occupational Exposure and Prevention).


  • Q fever vaccines are not available in the United States.
  • Reduce your risk of getting Q fever by avoiding contact with animals, especially while animals are giving birth. Animals can be infected with Coxiella burnetii and appear healthy.
  • Do not consume raw milk or raw milk products.
  • If you have been diagnosed with Q fever and have a history of heart valve disease, blood vessel abnormalities, a weakened immune system, or are pregnant, talk to your healthcare provider about your risk for developing chronic Q fever.


  • The symptoms of Q fever are similar to many other diseases, often making diagnosis difficult. Common symptoms include, but are not limited to, fever, fatigue, and muscle pain. See your healthcare provider if you develop symptoms after spending time with or near animals—particularly sheep, goats, and cattle—or in areas where these animals may have been.
  • Your healthcare provider may order blood tests to look for Q fever or for other diseases.
  • Laboratory testing and reporting of results can take several weeks, so your healthcare provider may start antibiotic treatment before results are available.

Treatment and recovery

  • Most people who are infected with Coxiella burnetii have no symptoms, or mild symptoms, and will recover without antibiotic treatment.
  • For people who develop symptomatic Q fever, treatment with 2 weeks of the antibiotic doxycycline is recommended.

Chronic Q fever

  • Develops in some individuals after infection.
  • A life-threatening infection, requiring several months of antibiotic treatment.
  • Treated with a combination of antibiotics including doxycycline and hydroxychloroquine for several months.