Q-fever results from infection by Coxiella burnetti. This is an unusual spore-like organism that is highly resistant to environmental conditions. It is found worldwide, except in New Zealand, and transmitted to humans and other animals by aerosol, direct contact with reproductive discharges,or infected milk. Ticks can spread infection among ruminants and people.
Since the organism is so resistant in the environment it can become airborne and travel one-half mile or more. It can survive up to 30 days in dried saliva and 120 days in dust.
The most common farm animal reservoirs for Q-fever are goats, sheep and cattle. Ticks and wild birds can also harbor this organism. It is also transmitted to humans. Reproductive failure is sometimes the only symptom in animals.
Symptoms: Abortion in late pregnancy, stillbirths, retained placenta, endometritis (inflammation of the lining of the uterus), infertility and small or weak offspring in ruminants.
Clincial Signs: With the aid of a veterinarian or extension agent, submit milk, feces, fetal tissue, placenta, vaginal discharge and blood for polymerase chain reaction assay (PCR).
Treatment: Isolate infected animals. Antibiotics may decrease the risk of abortion and suppress infection but not eliminate infection.
Vaccination is not available in the United States. It will not eliminate shedding of organism.
This disease is communicable to humans. Use extreme care when handling these animals.