Q fever is an infectious disease transmitted from animals to humans that can affect the heart, lungs, and other body parts and cause flu-like symptoms.
Q fever is caused by bacteria that are most often found in sheep, goats, and cattle. The bacteria are spread in the urine, feces, milk, and birth products (placenta, amniotic fluids, and blood) of infected animals. Usually, people get Q fever by inhaling barnyard dust that contains dried particles of infected material. Rarely, people can get Q fever by drinking raw, infected unpasteurized milk, coming into contact with infected animals, or by tick bites.
In some people Q fever may not cause any symptoms. Symptoms that may appear include fever, headache, cough, joint and muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. In rare cases, symptoms can last for longer than 6 months. This form of the disease (chronic Q fever) can lead to serious complications if it goes untreated.
Q fever is found worldwide but usually only affects people whose occupations involve livestock and ranching. Many people have either no symptoms or only mild symptoms. Most cases either get better on their own or can be treated with a simple course of antibiotics. Severe cases may require treatment with antibiotic medications for months or even years.
All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.
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