Have you ever heard of ‘Q Fever’? Many haven’t, but a new study shows more patients had severe cases than anyone could have expected.

What Is Q Fever?

Short for ‘Query Fever’, it’s an infection caused by the bacteria Coxiella burnetii. It’s naturally found in cattle, sheep, and goats. So, the way people can become infected is through direct contact with livestock that is carrying the bacteria. It’s also possible to breathe in the bacteria through contaminated dust particles that can easily blow with the wind long distances. However, it’s more common in dry, dusty conditions – think California and other Southwest states.

How Many People Were Affected?

In this study, there were 20 patients diagnosed with Q fever. Unfortunately, two of these patients died and three more developed chronic cases. While 20 may seem like a small number, it is actually significantly higher than the national average. The real concern is that Q fever is underdiagnosed because it is so uncommon and can look like the flu. Symptoms include achy muscles, chills, fever, and vomiting – so people don’t realize they have it. So, because it can be difficult to diagnose, the disease progresses while looking for answers. There is a blood test for Q fever, but it can take weeks for a proper diagnosis. This can be problematic because complications from Q fever can leave to inflammation of the liver, lungs, central nervous system, and endocarditis, which is a life-threatening infection of the heart valves.

How Can I Avoid Q Fever?

There is currently no preventative measure for Q fever such as a vaccine. So anyone who works with cattle, sheep, and goats should take extra precautions to minimize their risk. But for most of us, the most obvious way to avoid this bacteria is to steer clear of livestock and their fluids. This includes visiting areas that are downwind from farms, which are ideal conditions for Coxiella burnetii.

My final recommendation is to avoid drinking raw milk or unpasteurized products from cattle, sheep, and goats since they could be carrying this germ.

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