Q fever

General or Other | General Practice | Q fever (Disease)


Q fever is a disease caused by infection with Coxiella burnetii, a bacterium that affects humans and other animals. This organism is uncommon, but may be found in cattle, sheep, goats and other domestic mammals, including cats and dogs.

Approximately half of infected individuals exhibit no symptoms. During the course, the disease can progress to an atypical pneumonia, which can result in a life-threatening acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), whereby such symptoms usually occur during the first four to five days of infection.

Causes and Risk factors

The infection results from inhalation of a spore-like small cell variant, and from contact with the milk, urine, feces, vaginal mucus, or semen of infected animals. Rarely, the disease is tick borne. The incubation period is 9–40 days.

A human being can be infected by a single bacterium. The bacterium is an obligate intracellular pathogen. Incubation period is usually two to three weeks. The most common manifestation is mild flu-like symptoms with abrupt onset of fever, malaise, profuse perspiration, severe headache, myalgia (muscle pain), joint pain, loss of appetite, upper respiratory problems, dry cough, pleuritic pain, chills, confusion and gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The fever lasts approximately seven to 14 days.

Diagnosis and Treatment

The provider will do blood tests to evaluate the patients platelet count. The diagnosis is confirmed by identifying antibodies in the blood against to the Coxiella burnetii bacteria that causes the disease. An echocardiogram may be performed to look for lesions on the heart.

Acute Q fever is treated with the antibiotic doxycycline (Vibramycin) and the length of treatment is usually 2-3 weeks. At times a second course of antibiotics is needed. Chronic Q fever requires multiple antibiotics and the length of treatment is usually 18 months or longer. If the heart valves are infected surgery may need to be done to remove the infected tissue or repair damages to the heart or aorta. ...

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