Coxiella burnetii

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Coxiella burnetii is an obligate intracellular, gram-indeterminate bacterium responsible for causing Q fever. It is primarily transmitted through aerosols generated from animal droppings, particularly those from farm animals, that contain spore-like structures formed by C. burnetii.

Q fever is characterized by symptoms such as pneumonia, headache, and fever, which are common to other forms of pneumonia. However, Q fever is uniquely accompanied by hepatitis, which is a distinguishing feature. In mild cases, Q fever is usually self-limiting, often disappearing within two weeks without the need for antibiotics.

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How is Coxiella burnetii transmitted to humans?

Coxiella burnetii is commonly transmitted to humans through the inhalation of aerosols contaminated by animal droppings. Direct contact with infected animals or their byproducts can also lead to infection. The bacteria utilises a spore-like structure, allowing it to survive for extended periods in the environment.

What are the symptoms of Q fever, and how is it related to Coxiella burnetii?

Q fever is caused by the Coxiella burnetii bacteria. Symptoms may include high fever, severe headache, general malaise, myalgia, confusion, sore throat, chills, sweats, non-productive cough, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and chest pain. It may also lead to more serious conditions like pneumonia and hepatitis.

What are the specific risks for people working with animals in relation to Coxiella burnetii?

People working with animals are at a higher risk of exposure to Coxiella burnetii, given it is often present in animal droppings. This is particularly true for individuals working with livestock such as cattle, sheep, and goats, as these animals are common reservoirs of the bacteria. It's essential for these individuals to use protective measures to prevent infection.

Is there a vaccine available against Coxiella burnetii or Q fever?

Yes, there is a vaccine available for Q fever. The vaccine, Q-VAX¨, is an inactivated whole cell vaccine prepared from Coxiella burnetii. It's typically recommended for those at high risk of infection, such as livestock workers, veterinarians, and others in frequent contact with animals or animal products.