Q fever is caused by Coxiella bumetii bacterium and it is a serious infection damaging your liver, heart and other vital organs of the body. Actually, the bacteria would infect the cattle and birds as well as some insects and humans receive this infection by drinking the contaminated milk and droplets of these animals. Individuals who are maintaining cattle and dairy products and vet doctors who treat infected animals are at high risk of developing Q fever.
Incubation period for these bacteria is about 20-25 days. Often the symptoms of Q fever are mild which include low grade fever, headache, dry cough, muscle pain, loss of appetite and joint pain. For severe cases it may cause skin rash, abdominal pain and chest pain. In rare cases it may produce jaundice like symptoms causing yellowish skin indicating liver problem. Q fever is an acute illness that gets treated within few days. However in some cases it can be chronic causing chills, fever (prolonged) and extreme fatigue.
How it is contracted?
Animals like goat and sheep would carry the microbial in their tissues related to birth. (like that of uterus, placenta and birth fluids). Such animals have the highest content of bacteria when they give birth to young ones. These carrier animals would also release the bacteria in their manure and even milk. Anyone who drinks that raw milk is prone to develop Q fever infection. Similarly people who inhale the spores and dusts that are contaminated with microbes are at high risk of developing this infection. There is every chance for the infection to get transmitted through direct skin contact with infected animals.
Soon after birth, most of the animals will eat the tissues released during birth. In that case, the bacteria would again enter into the digestive tract of these animals and survive through their intestine and released in the form of dung/manure. Thus Q fever has immense chance of spreading into the environment like soil, air and manure. Man can easily develop this infection when he deals with infected manure or soil directly.
The doctor will look for the symptoms and assess the nature of job the infected person is involved. He would order for blood profile to measure the number of antibodies in the blood. High number of antibodies indicates infection.
Q fever can be treated with powerful antibiotics like tetracycline. Normally the infected person can fully recover if treatment is taken promptly. The dosage for chronic Q fever is doxycycline 100mg to be taken for every 12 hours. The medication to be continued for at least a week even after the fever subsides. For chronic cases, the doctor may prescribe hydroxychloroquine and doxycycline to prevent liver infection. The medications are to be taken for several weeks and even months to destroy the infectious bacteria completely.
Who are at risk? :
Q fever can be developed by farmers and cattle workers whose job involves frequent contact with animals. Farmers, farm workers, meat packers, stockyard workers, animal researchers and workers who deal with pet animals and lab technician who tests the infected man’s blood sample or tissue can develop Q fever.
Those who are involved in manufacturing animal products like hides and those who manage livestock and those who deal with animals daily like veterinary doctors and lab technicians have the highest risks of developing Q fever. Individuals with congenital heart problems and weakened immunity may also develop this infection easily.
Vaccine is available to prevent Q fever but is usually given to individuals who are at high risk of developing Q fever. This vaccine can become allergic to the person who does not have infected microbe within him. As a matter of precaution, workers who deal with infected animals daily can take Q fever blood test to find whether they have resistance.
By taking personal precautions while handling infected animals one can avoid developing Q fever. One can wear protective clothing which must be washed with special laundry procedures for treating disinfection. One should take extreme care while handling tissues of infected animals especially during birth.