Q Fever : A fever that can be contracted from animals


You can contract Q fever, a bacterial infection, from sick agricultural animals including sheep, cattle, and goats. Although it is often safe, some people may have negative consequences.


Close contact with sick farm animals is the main way that Q fever is transferred to people.

Contact with the following can transmit the bacteria:

  • Blood from the placenta, faeces, animal skins, hair, and wool
  • Breathing in the germs or touching it might transmit them.
  • Unpasteurized milk (milk that has not been boiled to remove bacteria) can also cause Q fever, but this is less probable.

Although Q fever is uncommon, those who work directly with animals, such as farmers, veterinarians, stablehands, and slaughterhouse employees, are more at risk.

How to check if you have Q Fever?

Farm animals including sheep, cattle, and goats that have the bacterial infection Q fever can transmit the disease to humans. The majority of the time it is not harmful, but in certain people, it can have serious consequences.

Although Q fever can induce a wide range of symptoms, flu-like symptoms are the most prevalent ones. 

The bacterium that causes it, C. burnetii, can invade other parts of your body, including your lungs, heart, brain, bones, and other soft tissues, and produce symptoms there.  You typically contract it by breathing in dust that has been polluted by the bodily fluids of infected animals.

Risk Factors

Although Q fever is typically harmless, it can occasionally cause major issues especially if any of the following applies to you: 

  • Pregnancy - Q fever can weaken your immune system and increase your risk of miscarriage and serious difficulties if it spreads to your unborn child, especially if you get it early in pregnancy. 
  • Undergoing chemotherapy.
  • Previously have had an organ transplant. 
  • Have heart valve dysfunction 
  •  Your eyes or brain could be affected. 


Symptoms of Q fever are not always present. Within two to three weeks of contracting the infection, some persons experience flu-like symptoms, including:

  • A high temperature or a fever
  • Achy muscles
  • Fatigue, feeling ill, a sore throat, and swollen glands
  • Extreme exhaustion
  • Chills
  • Sweats
  • Responsiveness to light (photophobia)
  • A terrible headache
  • Vomiting and nauseous
  • Diarrhoea
  • Cough
  • Chest pain
  • A stomachache
  • Spotty rashes under your skin (purpura).
  • Breathing difficulty (dyspnea).

These flu–like initial (acute) Q fever symptoms appear three to thirty days following exposure.

Acute Q fever symptoms may result in pneumonia, liver inflammation, encephalitis or meningitis, or inflammation of the brain or its covering (hepatitis).

Flu-like Q fever exhaustion syndrome, which affects some patients for over a year after their initial exposure, causes ongoing symptoms.  Others exhibit signs of persistent Q fever, a more severe infection.

According to the latest research developments, those who have been diagnosed with Q fever can avoid developing chronic Q fever by being screened for and treated for heart valve issues.


You can lessen your risk of contracting Q fever by taking the following steps:

  • When handling animal fluids, particularly birth products, wear a mask and gloves.
  • Avoid consuming dairy products that have not been pasteurized.
  • The possibility of taking a vaccine when working in a high–risk industry and residing in a region where the Q fever vaccine is available
  • If you live or work with farm animals and are at high risk for Q fever complications, talk to your healthcare practitioner about ways to prevent Q fever. 

The following are steps for anyone who handles animals at work:

  • Regularly wash your hands.
  • Cleanse cuts and grazes right away, then dress or plaster them.
  • Wear safety gear, such as goggles and gloves that are waterproof.
  • Make sure all animal placentas are safely cleaned away after birth

This is what those who handle animals at work should avoid doing: 

  • Do not assist animals in giving birth if you are pregnant.
  • Do not touch any clothing, boots, or gloves that have come into contact with animal faeces, urine, or afterbirth.
  • Milk that has not been heated to kill bacteria should not be consumed (unpasteurized milk)
  • Avoid dining in areas where animals are housed. 
  • During lambing season, there is a chance that sheep and lambs will transmit toxoplasmosis to humans. Therefore, it is important to avoid contact with sheep and lambs during the lambing season, which lasts from January to April, is especially critical if you are pregnant
  • Avoid touching gloves or boots as well as anything else that has been in close proximity to sheep or lambs.


A health practitioner can schedule a blood test to determine whether you have been exposed to the virus if they suspect you may have Q fever.

A doctor can refer you for additional testing to determine whether your unborn child has been affected if you are pregnant and test positive for Q fever. This is quite unusual.


Most people can be treated for acute Q fever with antibiotics. A doctor may recommend an antibiotic treatment plan for 1 or 2 weeks if your symptoms are severe or are not improving.

Even if you start to feel better, it is still crucial to finish the entire course of antibiotics.

Occasionally, those who have acute Q fever may experience symptoms that persist for months or years despite treatment.

Chronic Q fever

Antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs are frequently combined in the treatment of chronic Q fever, but they can be challenging to manage. 

An extended course of antibiotics and inpatient therapy may be necessary for people with chronic Q fever.

However, a treatment strategy will be developed by your doctor based on the nature of your sickness.

Speak with your doctor about being treated proactively to lower your risk of developing chronic Q fever if you have been diagnosed with Q fever and a history of heart valve or blood vessel issues.

Your doctor might advise the following medication: doxycycline, hydroxychloroquine, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (TMP-SMX) (TMP-SMX), rifampin, fluoroquinolones (ciprofloxacin, ofloxacin) (ciprofloxacin, ofloxacin), and clarithromycin.

Complications of Q Fever  

An endocarditis-like condition known as chronic Q fever can occasionally result.

Both acute and chronic Q fever can result in consequences, but chronic Q fever is less likely to occur however, they are typically more severe. Among the difficulties are:

  • Weak, enlarged arteries (aneurysm).
  • Blood flows wrongly as a result of arterial fistula.
  • Heart irritation (endocarditis).
  • Lung fibrosis scarring (fibrosis).
  • Rapid breathing distress syndrome (ARDS).
  • Cardiac arrest
  • A bone infection (osteomyelitis).
  • Perinatal loss (miscarriage)
  • A low birth weight.

Only a small percentage of people get persistent Q fever, but it can have serious side effects. 


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Page last reviewed: Mar 20, 2023

Next review due: Mar 20, 2025

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