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Nasty Infectious Diseases You Want To Avoid - Q Fever

Updated on December 31, 2008

This is a respiratory illness of animals which is also known as Query fever or Australian Q fever and it is a disease that is sometimes transmitted to humans. The bacteria are often found in the uterus and udder of pregnant sheep and cattle.

Q fever is spread around the globe and is quite common where sheep, goats and cattle are raised, an area which includes the western United States and Canada, as well as Europe and Africa. It primarily affects veterinarians, dairy workers, and farmers, and other people who work in close proximity to farm animals.

Cause - The primary cause of the disease and how the ailment was transmitted was not known until recently. Medical researchers have now discovered that a bacterium named Coxiella burnetii (Rickettsia burnetii) is the cause of the disease, which is spread through proximity with infected farm animals, by inhaling the rickettsiae from their skin, drinking contaminated milk, or being subjected to a bite by an tick which is infected. The bacteria survives for a considerable time in the ecosystem and is difficult to eliminate with disinfectants. The various mammals are usually infected by ticks that are infected with the bacteria and most of the infected mammals do not demonstrate any symptoms, although they pass on the bacteria in their urine and feces. It is feasible for the organism to spread from the laundry soiled with animal feces. Tiny numbers of the organisms can cause human disease, and the bacteria is able to be aerosolized for about a kilometer. The bacteria are not communicated between humans, which means infected individuals are not infectious to other people. After a single infection, people become immune to Q fever for the rest of their lives.

Symptoms - Many infected humans only demonstrate mild symptoms, but some become extremely ill. The arrival of symptoms is sudden, with high fever that may a month. The fever is often wrongly diagnosed as influenza or pneumonia. There are a variety of symptoms which include muscle pain, severe headache, fatigue, weakness, chills, and sweats, with chest pain. The fever can exceed 104 degrees F.

Diagnosis - Individuals with flulike symptoms who have been around infected mammals should seek medical advice, informing the physician that it is suspected that the person may have been in contact with the Q fever organism. Blood tests can reveal antibodies to Q fever, which can indicate that the patient is either now infected or has previously been infected with the bacterium.

Treatment - Antibiotics such as tetracycline usually work well within two days. A serious infection can be problematic to treat, and may necessitate long-term antibiotics. Patients who suffer from heart valve problems before becoming infected with Q fever may have serious inflammation to these valves, damaging them.

Prevention - People who spend a significant amount of time on an ongoing basis with domestic animals receive the vaccine specifically formulated against Q fever. Meticulous hygienic practices need to be implemented when in contact with contaminated hides, straw, wool, or pregnant animals. Inhalation of contaminated dust or fluid droplets must be strictly avoided, and proper disinfection and disposal of material must be carried out, as well as as immediate treatment of cuts and abrasions. Anything that is in contact with the contamination must be burned, buried, or boiled.


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