Science - February 14, 2012

Tick is not carrier of Q Fever

There's no need to fear getting Q Fever from a tick bite during a walk in the forest, says a study carried out by RIVM and Wageningen University.

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The Coxiella burnetii bacterium, which causes Q Fever, spread rapidly between 2008 and 2010 from goat farms to other parts of the Netherlands . The bacterium was present in goat droppings and was transmitted through the air to other farms and surrounding villages. Although most people hardly fall sick from Q Fever, ten people died from the chronic variant of this animal disease.
Researchers were afraid that during the epidemic, even wild animals and ticks in nearby forests were infected with the Coxiella burnetii bacterium. Research carried out elsewhere suggested that ticks can spread Q Fever bacteria to rodents such as rats. In this way, ticks could become a Q-Fever carrier which is very difficult to get rid of. Therefore, researchers tested almost three thousand ticks found in forests for the presence of the pathogenic bacteria. None of these ticks carried Q Fever bacteria in them, except for a handful which had been in contact with sheep vaccinated against Q Fever. But when these ticks were tested again after three months, the Coxiella burnetii bacterium was no longer present, report the researchers this month in Zoonoses and Public Health.
Chances of getting Q Fever because of a tick bite received in the forest is therefore minimal, conclude the researchers. Moreover, other possible ways of getting a Q-Fever infection have also been eradicated in the meantime. The spread of the bacteria has gone down after 2009 due to the vaccination programme for goats and sheep.

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