The microscopic bacterial agent of Q fever, Coxiella burnetii, is spread with airborne dust and contaminated milk. It was named Q, for query, because little was clear about the condition except that it caused bad fevers, headaches, sweating, dry coughs and chest and muscle pain, normally lasting up to two weeks. The first outbreaks of Q fever in Europe affected troops from both sides in World War II, prompting a concentrated effort to search for a remedy.
An American microbiologist, Dr. Paul Fiset collaborated with Dr. Michael George Stoker at Cambridge University in England from 1953 to 1956 to decode the structure of Coxiella burnetii. Dr. Fiset's later studies (at the Universities of Rochester and Maryland) were instrumental in the creation of a vaccine for Q fever.