Q Fever

Q fever is an illness caused by Coxiella burnetii, which is found in farm animals such as goats, cows, sheep and more. Those infected experience flu-like symptoms.

Disease Fact Sheet

Disease Facts

According to the CDC, Q fever can cause infection in people who experience one of the following:

  • Breathing in contaminated dust particles that have been in contact with infected animal birth products, feces, milk or urine.
  • Ingesting unpasteurized dairy products from an infected animal.
  • Touching an infected animal, though it isn’t required to catch the illness.

Various professions put people at increased risk for infection due to a higher likelihood of exposure to C. burnetii. Veterinarians, dairy farmers/workers, livestock farmers, meat or dairy processing plant workers.

About half of those who become infected with C. burnetii will display symptoms of sickness 2-3 weeks following exposure. Symptoms may be mild or severe, and the illness can develop into chronic Q fever, which can be serious or even deadly. Symptoms of Q fever include:

  • Chest pain
  • Chills or sweats
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Unproductive Cough
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting

Pregnant women who are infected could experience miscarriage, stillbirth or other birth defects.

Though there is not currently a vaccine available for Q fever, there are steps people can take to avoid infection. Reduce risk by:

  • Limiting or avoiding any contact with animals, especially those giving birth
  • Never consume raw milk products

Please talk to your health care provider if you feel you may have Q fever, or visit the CDC website for more information on Q Fever.


This material is provided by the South Dakota Department of Health for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical care. We are not able to answer personal medical questions. Please see your health care provider concerning appropriate care, treatment, or other medical advice.

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