AUSTRALIAN "Q" FEVER DISEASE
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This disease was first recognized in Australia especially among workers who handled meat and in slaughterhouses. The causative agent was Rickettsia burneti. In North America under the name of Nine Mile Fever the infectious agent was isolated from the tick Dermacentor andersoni. but given the name of Rickettsia diaporica, which later was found to be identical to R. burneti. (Matheson 1950). Subsequently these names were dropped and the current name is Coxiella burnetii (Service 2008). Transovarial and transstadial transmission are known to occur.
The principal reservoir host in Australia is the bandicoot rat, Isodon torosus. The tick Haemaphysalis humeroso was the main vector. Although this tick species only bites humans infrequently it is thought that it maintains the reservoir and that Ixodes holocyclus (a frequent biter of humans) is a primary vector. Other potential tick vectors are Haemaphysalis bispinosa and Rhipicephalus sanguineus.
The rickettsiae develop in the epithelium lining of the intestines of the tick so that the lumen and fecal wastes are highly charged. The feces are highly infectious even when dry, especially to broken or injured skin. Transmission is only through fecal wastes of infected ticks entering the wounds or by way of the respiratory tract.
Matheson (1950) reported that during World War II outbreaks of "Q" fever occurred among soldiers in Italy and the Balkans. Studies indicated the existence of several closely related strains of the Rickettsia.
Control involves precautionary behavior, especially avoiding inhalation around infected animals and carcasses.
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