Acute Q fever is usually asymptomatic or flu-like, but chronic Q fever can cause life-threatening endocarditis. Animal reservoirs of the infection include sheep, cows, goats and possibly cats and dogs.
Q fever is a zoonotic infection caused by the bacterium Coxiella burnetii. Short for ‘query’ fever, it was first described in 1937 among Brisbane abattoir workers but was soon recognised to occur worldwide. It has a range of nonspecific clinical manifestations and causes both acute and chronic disease. Untreated, chronic disease has a high mortality rate. Although aspects of Q fever remain enigmatic, there have been recent advances in our understanding and management of this infection.