Given the fact that Coxiella does not generally produce clinical disease in cattle, the main concern is the production of contaminated milk that can then cause human disease. For this reason, the routine pasteurization of raw milk is always advised.
Tell your doctor
Often, physicians do not consider Q Fever in their diagnosis because it is primarily thought to be spread by ticks. It is likely that this disease in underdiagnosed in many cases because testing is not performed or there is a false negative result. Fortunately, if detected early, Q Fever can be treated with antibiotics. Because it is so infectious and difficult to contain in the laboratory, positive isolation of this agent must be reported to the health department.
Let this serve as a reminder to use basic hygiene. Hand-washing, exam gloves and obstetrical sleeves are all easy to use and inexpensive. Also keep zoonotic diseases in mind if you experience any unexplained illness.
Sometimes we need to remind our physicians that we work with livestock since zoonotic diseases can sometimes be overlooked. (For more information on Q Fever, go to: http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/diseases/qfever.html)
Mark J. Thomas is a veterinarian and partner in Countryside Veterinary Clinic, LLP in Lowville, N.Y.