Q fever is an infection caused by the bacterium Coxiella burnetii. Q fever is usually a mild disease with flu-like symptoms. Many people have no symptoms at all. In a small percentage of people, the infection can resurface years later. This more deadly form of Q fever can damage your heart, liver, brain and lungs.
Q fever is transmitted to humans by animals, most commonly sheep, goats and cattle. When you inhale barnyard dust particles contaminated by infected animals, you may become infected. High-risk occupations include farming, veterinary medicine and animal research.
Mild cases of Q fever clear up quickly with antibiotic treatment. But if Q fever recurs, you may need to take antibiotics for at least 18 months.
Q fever is caused by the bacterium Coxiella burnetii, commonly found in sheep, goats and cattle. The bacterium can also infect pets, including cats, dogs and rabbits.
These animals transmit the bacteria through their urine, feces, milk and birthing products — such as the placenta and amniotic fluid. When these substances dry, the bacteria in them become part of the barnyard dust that floats in the air. The infection is usually transmitted to humans through their lungs, when they inhale contaminated barnyard dust.
Many people infected with Q fever never show symptoms. If you do have symptoms, you’ll probably notice them between three and 30 days after exposure to the bacteria. Signs and symptoms may include:
- High fever, up to 105 F (41 C)
- Severe headache
- Sensitivity to light