Q Fever

  • Medical Author:

    Dr. Eddie Hooker is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Services Administration at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is also an Associate Clinical Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Louisville and at Wright State University. His areas of expertise include emergency medicine, epidemiology, health-services management, and public health.

  • Medical Author: Mary K. Bister, MD
  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

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Is Q fever deadly?

The acute form of Q fever is rarely fatal (1%-2%), and most people get better without any treatment. About 5% of people with acute Q fever will go on to develop chronic Q fever. The chronic form of Q fever is more dangerous. Without treatment, up to 40% of people with chronic Q fever will die, and 100% of people with endocarditis caused by chronic Q fever will die. With appropriate treatment, chronic Q fever causes death in 10% of people.

Is Q fever contagious?

Q fever is one of the most contagious diseases known. As few as one or two bacteria can cause infection.

What is the danger of getting Q fever while pregnant?

Q fever is very dangerous in pregnancy. About 80% of pregnant women with Q fever will develop a complication if untreated. The complications range from miscarriage to premature delivery and result in fetal death almost half the time. Pregnant women are also at higher risk for developing chronic Q fever. Women who are infected in their first trimester of pregnancy are more likely to develop complications. With appropriate treatment, the risk of these complications can be minimized.

What complications may arise with Q fever?

The main complication seen with acute Q fever is pneumonia, which will affect 30%-50% of patients. Another complication can be hepatitis (inflammation of the liver). Rarely, patients can develop myocarditis (heart inflammation), osteomyelitis (bone inflammation), acalculous cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder), and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). Pregnant women have complications ranging from miscarriage to premature delivery. About 20% of people will have persistent fatigue called post-Q fever fatigue syndrome, which lasts more than a year after the infection. Also, 5% of patients with acute Q fever will go on to develop chronic Q fever. The main complication of chronic Q fever is endocarditis, which will affect 60%-70% of patients. People who already have problems with their heart valves or their immune system are more likely to develop endocarditis. The second most common complication is vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels), which is more likely in people who have grafts in their blood vessels. Chronic lung infections and chronic fatigue syndrome can also occur. Endocarditis can cause destruction of the heart valves and result in heart failure. Surgery may be required to repair or replace the valves. Vasculitis, especially in people with grafts or aneurysms in their blood vessels, can also require surgery.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/4/2015

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