Science - October 18, 2012

Q-Fever surfaces again

Q-Fever has been detected again in a goat farm in Hulten although all goats have been vaccinated according to regulations. This is the second farming concern with dairy goats where Q-Fever has again been detected this year. Isn't the vaccine working?

The vaccine has not worked in all the cases, says Q-Fever researcher Hendrik-Jan Roest of the Central Veterinary Institute (CVI). It does not work well for animals which have already been infected with the Q-Fever bacteria before the vaccination. Most of these are older goats which have been around before the Q-Fever epidemic in the years 2007 to 2010 and are still producing milk. 'I suspect that the infection came from these older animals.'
Weren't goats from infected farms killed off?
'Only the pregnant goats in those farms were culled. That was because the Q-Fever bacterium was released in big quantities during births and abortions. Goats which were not pregnant and which were being milked were not culled, but vaccinated. It appears that a small number of that group of goats were infected with Q-Fever before they were vaccinated. The vaccine does not work well in animals which are already infected.'
Why hasn't the alarm bell been sounded? Q-Fever has led to many victims.
'These cases do not pose any danger at all to public health. The Q-Fever bacterium has been found in the milk in the farm. This is not dangerous because when the milk is processed, the bacteria will be killed. Moreover, the bacterium is not present in big quantities in the droppings like it was during the epidemic, because these goats do not give birth to young ones. In addition, there is now a ban on transporting manure outside these farms.'
Is the Q-Fever epidemic over?
'Luckily, it's been over a couple of years ago, but sadly, quite a number of people with chronic Q-Fever are still suffering from the consequences of the epidemic.'