Updated: Aug 6, 2019
Like many of you out there in goat land, I try to keep up on the health and care of my goats by taking courses, reading publications, talking to experienced goat owners and my goat veterinarian. Anytime I find something new, I like to share that information with other goat owners. Here is some information on Q-Fever I recently learned.
Q Fever is distributed world-wide with 2 exceptions - it is not found in either New Zealand or the Antarctic. This disease is zoonotic which means this disease can be transmitted to humans via bacterium known as coxiella burnetii.
People who contract Q Fever may have symptoms such as fever, flu-like symptoms, severe headaches, muscle pain, discomfort and the like. Q Fever can cause abortions in pregnant women, and in a small percentage of people, atypical pneumonia, hepatitis, and endocarditis which is a fungal infection in the heart. Pregnant women, children, the elderly, and those who have a weakened immune system are at the greatest risk for Q Fever.
Clinical signs of the disease are often asymptomatic which makes it difficult to know if an animal is infected or if an animal is symptomatic, a late-term abortion, stillbirths, inflammation of the uterine walls or anorexia. Either way an infected animal can excrete the bacterium through the placenta, an aborted fetus, bodily fluids which include urine and milk, and through their feces.
Larger scale herds and livestock management that uses the method of accumulated bedding and manure partially explains where the bacterium could reside. This bacterium is extremely persistent in the environment and is found to be higher in dairy goat herds than in meat goat herds.
In order to prevent the spread of the bacteria and prevent transmission to herd mates and humans, recommendations include:
1. Any does that have aborted fetuses need to be isolated from the herd and bio-containment protocols need to be followed.
2. Proper disposal of soiled birthing bedding and feces of suspect animal by placing in a doubled garbage to transport it to a spot to bury it at least two feet deep and covered with caustic lime. (Make sure location is at least 200 feet from any sources of water.)
3. Maintain a clean environment and bio-security hygiene practices. (Changing shoes & clothes, hand washing, using clean supplies & equipment for each goat, etc.)
4. Any composting of subsequent bedding and feces needs to be composted a minimum of 90 days and kept moist to prohibit dust formation which could become airborne.
Prevention of transmitting Q-fever to humans include careful handling and destruction of any parturition, especially abortion, by:
1. Wearing disposable gloves, wearing a medical mask that is certified N95 compliant, implementing strict hygiene protocols that include changing of clothes and shoes, separate washing farm clothes in hot water, strict hand washing regime after handling animals, farm waste, and soiled bedding especially during parturition.
2. It is extremely important that any late-term aborted fetuses and placenta should be sent to a laboratory for a complete necropsy. A necropsy will determine the cause of the abortion as well as the risk of transmission of the disease to other herd members or humans.
3. When milking a suspect doe, make sure to use strict sanitation practices of all equipment, be vigilant and pasteurize any milk produced until you have the results of the necropsy.
It is always best practice to be safe than sorry!
Have you had any experience with Q Fever? If so, I'd like to know what your experience was and how you dealt with the disease.
Note: If you would like to read the original article I am referencing, it was in the July 2019 edition of United Caprine News; no author was credited. The article was titled Q-Fever.