Q Fever

Q fever is a bacterial infection caused by the germ Coxiella burnetii.  It affects a number of animals, namely goats, sheep and cattle.  For these animals it causes abortion and pneumonia outbreaks.  Q fever is also a zoonotic disease, this means that it can spread and infect humans.

How is it spread?
Animals become infected via inhalation, ingestion r blood.  Animals infected by Q virus can pass the disease to other animals through birth and abortion products, milk, faeces and urine.

(Diagram to show how livestock are infected by Q virus as well as how it can be spread.)

It is important that humans who work closely with infected animals takes the necessary precautions to prevent infection.  These precautions may include wearing a dust mask / respirator when mucking out sheds, washing hands regularly.

Coxiella burnetii can be carried on the wind for up to 11 miles.  It is therefore also important to make sure that farmers with infected livestock muck out sheds on calm, still days as a precaution.

How can spread be minimised?
There is a vaccine for Q virus.  Coxevac can be given to infected livestock, two injections are given under the skin, usually at three months and nine months of age respectively.

There are other ways to reduce the risk of the disease spreading:

  • Afterbirth and birth fluids should be removed and shouldn’t be allowed to fall onto the bedding.
  • Calves should not be allowed to receive milk or colostrum from the mother.
  • Areas where cows have given birth should be disinfected and cleaned extensively.

For more information, contact your local Vet or Morgan at morgangray@fcgagric.com