What is Q fever?

Q fever is an infectious disease spread to humans by animals and caused by the bacterium Coxiella burnetii.

Coxiella burnetti
(Image source: US National Institutes of Health)

The bacterium is transmitted to humans by direct and indirect contact with infected animals, animal products or contaminated material. It is mainly spread from animals to humans via inhalation of infected particles in the air.

Coxiella burnetii can infect both wild and domestic animals, and their ticks. Cattle, sheep and goats are the main sources of human infection, but certain wildlife (e.g. kangaroos), feral and domestic animals (e.g. camels, cats and dogs), may also be implicated.

The illness in humans is usually flu-like, but may sometimes have serious and long-lasting consequences.

In Australia, any case of Q fever needs to be reported to health authorities.