Q fever is a bacterial infection that is caused by Coxiella burnetii. It is a common bacteria found in sheep, cattle and goats across the world. You can get Q fever when you breathe in dust that an infected animal .
Veterinarians, farmers and people working with these animals in their labs are at the risk of being infected by Q fever. The bacteria are present in the highest amount in the birth products of an infected animal.
Most people recover from Q fever all by themselves, but more severe cases require antibiotic treatment. So, when you experience symptoms of Q fever, you should get in touch with a doctor as soon as possible.
What Are the Symptoms of Q Fever?
Symptoms of this disorder do not appear until about 2-3 weeks after being exposed to the bacteria. Nevertheless, you may develop an infection and not show any symptoms. In case symptoms do appear, they are usually mild.
Symptoms of Q fever vary considerably from one person to the other. Some of the symptoms of Q fever might include:
- High fever
- Sweats or chills
- Nausea and vomiting
- Clay-colored stools
- Abdominal pain
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle pain
- Light sensitivity
A rash is also a symptom of Q fever, but it isn’t common.
What Are the Causes of Q Fever?
Q fever is caused by Coxiella burnetii bacterium that is commonly found in goats, sheep and cattle. The bacterium can infect pets, including dogs, cats and rabbits.
The animals transmit bacteria through their feces, urine, birthing products and milk. As these substances dry, they become a part of barnyard dust floating in the air. The infection is usually transmitted to humans through their lungs when they inhale contaminated barnyard dust.
In rare cases, drinking unpasteurized milk might cause infection. The bacteria can’t spread directly from one human to the other. The actual frequency of Q fever is not known, as in most cases, such cases are not reported.
When Do You Need to See a Doctor?
Whenever you experience more than one symptom of Q fever, you should consult a doctor.
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What are the Risks Associated with Q Fever?
Certain factors might increase the risk of being infected with the Q fever bacteria. These include:
- Just being near a farm or farming facility might put you at a higher risk of developing Q fever as the bacteria can travel a long distance through the dust particles in the air.
- Certain occupations tend to place you at a higher risk as you are exposed to animals and their products as a part of your job. At-risk occupations include veterinary medicine, livestock farming, animal research and meat processing.
- Men are more prone to develop acute Q fever.
The recurrence of Q fever can affect your liver, heart, lungs and brain, giving rise to severe complications, like:
- Lung issues: Few people who have Q fever develop pneumonia
- Pregnancy problems: Chronic Q fever rises the risk of miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight and stillbirth
- Liver damage: Few people who have Q fever develop hepatitis
- Meningitis: Q fever can cause meningitis, an inflammation of the membrane surrounding your brain and spinal cord
The risk of developing the deadly form of the infection is higher in people who have:
- Heart vessel abnormalities
- Heart valve disease
- Impaired kidney function
- Weakened immune system
How Can You Prevent Q Fever?
In several countries, vaccines have been successful for people working in high-risk environments.
If you are at a high risk of developing Q fever and are not vaccinated, you need to take the following preventive steps:
- Wash your hands properly
- Disinfect and decontaminate all exposed areas
- Quarantine infected animals
- Tests animals for infection now and then
- Ensure that the milk you drink is pasteurized
- Dispose of all birth material after a livestock animal gives birth
What is the Treatment for Q Fever?
The treatment depends primarily on the severity of the symptoms:
- Mild Infection: Mild infection symptoms usually resolve within a few weeks without any treatment.
- Severe Infection:. Start taking antibiotic as soon as the fever is detected, even before the laboratory results are available. The duration of the treatment is 2-3 weeks. Symptoms, like fever, will subside within 72 hours.
- Chronic Infection: Antibiotics are given for 18-24 months.
Usually, antibiotics are effective. Death from the disease is uncommon. But, it would help if you visited a doctor to diagnose the infection as soon as you experience the symptoms.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How Long Does Q Fever Last?
Without treatment, symptoms might last for 2-6 weeks. Most people make a complete recovery and become immune to repeated infections.
Is Q Fever Fatal?
Chronic Q fever is serious and might be deadly when not treated correctly. After being detected, it requires months of antibiotic treatment.
Where is Q Fever Mostly Found?
Q fever occurs across the world.
Can Q Fever be Cured?
People who have Q fever will recover without any antibiotic treatment. However, people with chronic Q fever should take antibiotics.