Q Fever? It's a bigger threat to humans than thought

Posted at 5:40 PM, May 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-22 17:40:52-04

(WXYZ) — A new study revealed that more patients than expected had severe cases of a disease called Q fever. This study hopes to shed light on this health concern.

So what exactly is Q fever?

Q fever is short for Query Fever which is a disease caused by Coxiella burnetii. It’s a bacteria that is found naturally in cattle, goats and sheep. Now this bacteria can infect people through direct contact with livestock that is carrying the bacteria. And it’s also possible to get it by simply breathing in contaminated dust particles that easily blow long distances with the wind. However this infection is more common in dry, dusty conditions that are often found in places like California and other Southwest states.

Why do they think that severe cases are more common than expected?

Well, taking a look at the research, of the 20 patients who were diagnosed with Q fever, 3 developed chronic cases and 2 unfortunately died. Now 20 cases may not seem like a lot, but those numbers are a lot higher than the national average. And the real concern is that Q fever is seriously underdiagnosed. Part of it is because the symptoms you get are flu-like, so fever, chills, muscle aches, vomiting - all the usual stuff. So people actually don’t know they have it. And blood work that detects it can take weeks for a proper diagnosis, while the disease progress. Complications can lead to inflammation of the liver, lungs, central nervous system, and endocarditis, which is a life-threatening infection of the heart valves.

How can one avoid contracting this bacteria?

Well folks, there is presently no vaccine to prevent Q fever, so anyone who works with these animals should take extra precautions to minimize their risk. But for everyone else, the most obvious way is to avoid direct contact with livestock and their bodily fluids. But also be aware if you visit downwind of a farm where ideal conditions exist, you could be at an increased risk. And lastly, I’d recommend you avoid drinking raw milk or unpasteurized products from these animals as they might be carrying the germ.