Q Fever Fact Sheet

What is Q fever?

  • Q fever is a disease in people and animals caused by the germ (bacteria) Coxiella burnetii.
  • In animals, the disease is also known as coxiellosis (pronounced cox·e·el·low·sis).

What are the symptoms of Q fever in animals?

  • Infected animals usually appear healthy.
  • Infected, pregnant animals may experience abortions late in pregnancy.

Who is at risk?

Goats lying on a bed of straw next to a fence

Anyone who has contact with animals infected with Q fever bacteria, especially people who work on farms or with animals. Examples of high-risk jobs include:

  • Livestock farmers
  • Slaughterhouse workers
  • Veterinarians
  • Animal or laboratory researchers

How is it spread?

Q fever is most commonly spread to people by infected farm animals, including goats, cattle, and sheep.

People can get Q fever by:

  • Touching feces, urine, milk, or blood from an infected animal.
  • Breathing in dust that contains Q fever bacteria.
  • Touching a newborn animal or birthing products (placenta, birth fluids) from an infected animal.
  • Drinking raw (unpasteurized) milk.

What are the signs and symptoms of Q fever in people?

About half of people infected with Q fever bacteria will get sick with a flu-like illness. People may feel sick 2–3 weeks after contact with the bacteria.

Signs and symptoms can include:

  • High fever
  • Feeling tired
  • Chills or sweats
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Cough
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Chest pain

What is chronic Q fever?

A very small number of people with Q fever (less than 1 out of 20) develop a more severe illness called chronic Q fever. Chronic Q fever can result in infection of heart valves (called endocarditis). Symptoms may not appear until months or years after exposure.

Chronic Q fever is more likely to occur in people:

  • With heart valve or blood vessel disease,
  • With weakened immune systems,
  • Who were pregnant when they first had Q fever.

Take steps to reduce your exposure.

  • There is no vaccine to prevent infection in the United States.
  • Avoid contact with infected animals during birthing when possible. If you assist in animal deliveries or have contact with birth products, protect yourself by wearing:
    • A pair of safety goggles, a dust mask, and a pair of rubber gloves on a black background


    • Eye protection (e.g., goggles)
    • Protective clothing (e.g., coveralls and boots)
    • Masks (an N95 or higher respirator is the most effective type of mask for protecting against Q fever bacteria)
    • Talk to your healthcare provider about whether it is safe for you to wear a mask or respirator.
    • Additional Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements may apply. Talk to your employer.
  • Shower and change your clothes and shoes after working with animals.
  • Eat and drink only pasteurized milk and milk products (cheese, cream, butter).

What should I do if I am worried about Q fever?

  • Contact your healthcare provider if you think you might have Q fever or if you are at risk for chronic Q fever. If you work or have worked with farm animals, make sure to tell your healthcare provider.
  • Contact your veterinarian if you think your animals might have Q fever.