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Re: q-fever

Posted by Lorna on May 26, 2001 at 05:07:45:

In Reply to: q-fever posted by goatman on May 25, 2001 at 19:40:37:

Here is a factsheet that our government sent out last year.

Q-Fever in Goats
Publication AP027
February 17, 2000


Recent reports have referred to the presence of Q-fever on some goat farms in this province and the resulting illness of people handling these goats. This factsheet is intended to provide scientific information on this disease.

What causes Q-fever?

Q-fever is caused by a bacteria called Coxiella burnetii.

Who can get sick?

Q-fever as an illness is most common in humans. Though it can be carried by many different species of wild and domestic animals, sickness in animals is usually only seen in goats and sheep in the form of abortion or stillbirth. Other domestic animals that can carry it include cattle, cats, pigs, horses and dogs. Common wild animals that carry it include birds (such as the dove or birds of prey that may have consumed infected animals), rodents and rabbits (possibly 1/3 of the snowshoe hares in Nova Scotia carry it).

In areas where there are a lot of ticks, these arthropods can spread the disease. Ticks are not common in Newfoundland.

How is it spread?

Humans usually get the disease by breathing in the bacteria. This most commonly comes from contact with the birthing fluids of infected goats, sheep or cats or from the air in a building where dusty, contaminated bedding is disturbed.

In addition, people can get it by swallowing the bacteria. This can happen after getting hands contaminated when handling infected animals or infected bedding. Drinking contaminated raw milk can also result in infection.

Though not impossible, it is not considered likely that people with the illness can spread it to other people.

In goats, Q-fever is often seen in outbreaks rather than individual cases. All of the reasons for this aren't known but stress is an important influence on the occurrence of such illnesses. The mixing of animals from different backgrounds, new surroundings, or other such disruptions can cause the bacteria to be shed and make animals more vulnerable to infection.

What are the symptoms in humans?

Q-fever in humans results in "flu-like" symptoms which can persist. These can include fever, headache, chills, sore muscles, loss of appetite, dry cough, chest pains and sweats. Symptoms vary depending upon whether the bacteria was inhaled or swallowed.

Are there previous reports of Q-fever in Newfoundland?

There are no records of previous cases of this disease in humans in this province. There are a very few records of infection in cattle, usually as a result of a survey or other incidental testing. As this rarely causes illness in cattle there is usually no reason to look for evidence of exposure in these animals. This doesn't mean that there weren't more cases but rather that there is no record

Who is at risk?

As Q-fever spreads from animals to people, it is usually those people who work directly with them that would be at higher risk. This would include sheep and goat dairy farmers, slaughterhouse operators and veterinarians. In the case of Q-fever from cats it would be anyone who is in the proximity of infected cats when they give birth.

What precautions should be taken?

Most animals have the potential to carry illnesses that can spread to humans. In some cases these may be very serious and life threatening such as rabies and hantavirus; in others they may be annoyances that don't cause serious threats to otherwise healthy individuals.

With respect to Q-fever, the precautions depend on the situation. If someone is purchasing new animals they can request that testing be done beforehand to minimize the chances that the animals carry the disease (this is also true in the purchase of any other livestock though the diseases would depend on the actual species). Once purchased, the animals can be kept in isolation upon arrival to see whether they show signs of any illness that might affect other animals in the herd. Many people try to keep closed herds with their animals to minimize the entry of diseases.

Though normally people don't use filter masks or gloves when working with animals this can be done if there is any concern over the possibility of transmission of such illnesses. Regular washing of clothes and hands also decreases the risk of disease. Though animals can carry illnesses from one barn to another so can people. Many livestock operations keep their premises closed off to the general public as they don't want to risk having any illnesses brought in on people's boots or clothing. Similarly, many livestock operators will not visit other barns as they don't want to bring anything back to their own barns. This is what is referred to as biosecurity and is promoted broadly throughout the livestock industry.

The normal precautions that we take for the handling of food products from animals sources (i.e. meat and milk) would also apply. These include cooking or pasteurizing the raw product, proper cleaning of surfaces that come into contact with raw product and regular washing of hands.

Where can I go for more information?

Anyone who feels they may have contracted an illness from any source should see their family doctor. Questions about illnesses in animals can be directed to your Regional Veterinarian. This department has offered free blood testing for all goats and sheep in this province to see how prevalent this disease is. For information on this blood sampling please also contact your Regional Veterinarian.

Written by:

Dr. Hugh Whitney
Animal Health Division
P. O. Box 7400,
St. John's, NF A1E 3Y5

(709) 729-6879 phone
(709) 729-0055 fax

Last Updated on February 17, 2000


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