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Q fever is caused by the bacterium Coxiella Burnetii. The infection occurs in animals including sheep, goats, cattle, some wild mammals, dogs, cats, birds, and ticks. Human exposure is typically through inhalation of dust that is contaminated with animal matter such as excrement and placental or birth fluids. Transmission also occurs by direct contact with infected animals and other contaminated materials, such as wool, straw, fertilizer, and laundry. Ingestion of raw milk from infected cows may be a potential source of exposure. Direct transmission by blood or marrow transfusion has been reported. Q fever is endemic in areas where reservoir animals are present, and occupationally affects veterinarians, meat workers, sheep workers, farmers, and occasionally dairy workers.

Resources for the general public

Resources for health care professionals

Purpose of surveillance:

  • To identify sources of transmission and reduce the risk of infection
  • To identify cases caused by potential agents of bioterrorism

Q fever case data

Local epidemiology:

  • The last case of acute Q fever was reported in 2012 in an adult who died of the illness and who was likely exposed in Mexico. Prior to that, two cases were reported in 2010, both of which were likely exposed outside of King County.

  • Each year in Washington state there are fewer than 3 cases reported. Prior to the death of a King County case in 2010, the last death associated with Q fever in King County occurred in 1987.