Coxiella burnetii is the intracellular bacterium which causes Q fever. This primarily occurs through inhalation or ingestion of particles from taminated soil or animal waste, and sometimes through ticks. Exposure to farm animals including cows, sheep, and goats is associated with infection. C. burnetti is a significant threat for bioware seeing as it is resistant to heat, drying, and many disinfectants.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms include high fever, headache, sore throat, malaise, nausea, diarrhea, chest pain, nonproductive cough, pneumonia, and hepatitis. Neurological manifestations occur in about one percent of patients and could develop into meningitis, encephalitis, myelitis and/or peripheral neuropathy. Endocarditis, infection of the heart valves, is the most serious manifestation. However, it is usually found in patients with preexisting valvular disease. Unfortunately, the mortality rate is increasingly high, currently at 65 percent.
Indirect IFA testing is the most useful serologic method available. ELISA, complement fixation analyses, and immunohistochemical staining tests are also available. While culture is also available, it is rarely done due to the risk of laboratory-transmitted cases.