Several cases of Q fever have been reported in Amt Neuheus in the Lüneburg district. It is a rare disease characterized by flu-like symptoms and can be transmitted from animals to humans. A spokeswoman for the district of Lüneburg quoted the “NDR” as saying that many doctors would not know about the disease either because it occurs so rarely. "It's a disease that comes up from the south as part of climate change," said district spokeswoman Marion Junker on Monday. What you need to know about Q fever:
Q fever is caused by the bacterium Coxiella burnetii. With the exception of New Zealand and Antarctica, it is a zoonosis that is widespread all over the world, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). It is therefore a disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans. Cattle, sheep and goats are considered important reservoirs for the pathogen. Dogs, cats and wild animals can also be infected and excrete the pathogen, although transmission to humans is very rare, according to the Ministry of Education.
The bacterium Coxiella burnetii is transmitted primarily through direct contact with animals or by inhaling infectious dust. According to the RKI, transmission from person to person is rare. "A larger amount of the infectious pathogen is excreted in particular with the birth fluids and afterbirths of infected ruminants. Even if an infected herd of animals is several kilometers away, people can still be infected if dust containing the pathogen is spread through the air," informs the Ministry of Education on a website about Q fever. The pathogen can also spread when goats, cows and sheep are slaughtered. There is no risk of transmission when eating sufficiently well-cooked meat. In principle, transmission is possible through the consumption of raw milk products, but the risk is considered low.
If the pathogen Coxiella burnetii is detected in a person, this must be reported. Due to the mild symptoms, however, it can be assumed that not all cases will be reported because not all infections with Q fever are recognized as such. The number of diseases has fluctuated greatly since 2001, as the RKI yearbook for 2020 shows. The reported illnesses vary between 55 and 416 per year.
Q fever is very similar to a common cold. Infected people may experience symptoms such as fever, body aches, chills, severe headaches behind the eyes, and fatigue. As a rule, such symptoms remain and the disease is mild. In about 10 percent of cases, pneumonia and/or liver inflammation occurs. In extremely rare cases, inflammation of the heart muscle or meningitis can also occur. Q fever is treated with antibiotics.
There is no approved vaccine for use in humans in Germany. However, there is an approved vaccine for cattle and goats in Germany. This can also be used on sheep.
Anyone who has close contact with goats, cattle and sheep for reasons of livelihood has an increased risk of infection with Q fever.
Sources: RKI, RKI annual report 2020, NDR, Q-Gaps, communication from the district of Lüneburg, with material from the DPA