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Q fever can spread from farm animals to humans. More research needed: health experts

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Disease can be transmitted through air particles

By Diego Flammini
Assistant Editor, North American Content

Health experts in Alberta believe more research is needed into a disease that’s capable of being transferred from farm animals to humans.

Q fever is caused by a bacterial pathogen known as Coxiella burnetti. It can cause abortions and early births in farm animals.

“If you end up with a large number or a large percentage of pregnant animals delivering early, that may be a tell-tale sign you have this bacterial infection in your herd or in your flock,” Craig Jenne, a microbiologist at the University of Calgary, told CBC.

Sheep farm

According to Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, “the agent is shed in birthing fluids and membranes, as well as milk, urine and feces… Q fever can be transmitted to human beings primarily by inhalation of dessiccated aerosol particles from the environment, and through contact with infected animals.”

In humans, it can cause flu-like symptoms severe enough to send people to the hospital.

Jenne said recent findings show illnesses that were once believed to be a cold or flu were actually Q fever.

Both Jenne and Stan Houston, a professor with the school of public health at the University of Alberta, say animal pens should have sufficient air flow and shouldn’t remain damp. They said areas where animals birthed should be sterilized.

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