Occupational Health Clinic
September 27, 2011

Q fever is a disease caused by the bacteria Coxiella burnetti. It is commonly carried by sheep, cattle, and goats. It is transmitted to humans through the air or by handling infected animals. This illness can be a mild flu-like illness in humans but can also cause pneumonia, hepatitis (liver inflammation), or endocarditis (inflammation of the heart valves). These serious complications can be potentially fatal. People with existing valvular heart disease or prosthetic heart valves are at high risk.

Faculty and staff in the Division of Animal Care, as well as research staff who work with sheep, have the potential for exposure to Q fever. Therefore, these employees are required to participate in OHC's surveillance program. All at-risk employees must complete an annual medical questionnaire and physical examination, as well as review signs and symptoms of Q fever illnesses. If an acute Q-fever infection is suspected, a medical history, occupational history, and routine lab work should be performed to make an initial diagnosis. Testing of patient serum samples at the onset of the disease and during recovery are used to confirm the diagnosis of Q-fever.

In addition, the Occupational Health Clinic provides treatment, including antibiotics, if an employee develops an infection.

For further information regarding Q-fever, please call the Occupational Health Clinic at 615-936-0955 or the Division of Animal Care at 615-322-2231.

Additional information:

CDC information on Q Fever

Vanderbilt Division of Animal Care (VUNet ID/password login required)

Keywords: Q fever, sheep, animals, OSHA, AAALAC