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Q fever

Q fever, disease caused by Coxiella burnetii, a small, Gram-negative bacterium. The bacterium infects livestock (cattle, goats, and sheep) and other domesticated animals, and is found in the urine, feces, amniotic fluid and other birth products, and milk of infected animals. It is typically transmitted to humans by inhalation of contaminated dust particles or from contaminated materials; Q fever is an occupational hazard among dairy farm and slaughterhouse workers. C. burnetii infection does not produce symptoms in roughly half of all cases involving humans, and most symptomatic cases involve fever, chills, fatigue, and other flulike symptoms, making Q fever difficult to diagnose. Severe cases may lead to inflammation of the lungs (pneumonia) or liver (hepatitis), and in pregnant women the disease may cause miscarriage, premature birth, or other complications. A small number of infected persons develop chronic Q fever, which is serious and can be fatal. Most people with acute Q fever recover without treatment or after treatment with the antibiotic doxycycline. Chronic cases are treated with a combination of antibiotics including doxycycline and hydroxychloroquine, and treatment lasts for several months.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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