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Q fever measures for Dutch farms

29th September 2009

A highly infectious disease called Q fever is threatening to infect people in the Netherlands.

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Farms and zoos will soon be required to vaccinate goats and sheep against the disease.

While the disease is rarely fatal, cases have risen sharply in the past few years, with 2,000 since the year 2007.

The Dutch Ministry of Agriculture plans to procure 1.5 million vaccines for farms around the country.

Not all farms will be required to vaccinate their animals.

However, farmers in parts of North Brabant, Limburg and Gelderland will be required to do so.

Dutch Agricultural Minister Gerda Verburg said that the ultimate goal is to force back the amount of human cases of Q fever.

Although Q fever is sometimes fatal, it has more often been linked to permanent heart problems that can arise months or even decades following infection.

The most common symptoms of human Q fever are flu-like, with abrupt fever onset.

Muscle and joint pain, as well as loss of appetite and respiratory or gastro-intestinal problems, are also common symptoms.

The fever can last anywhere from one to two weeks, and can progress to life-threatening respiratory problems during the first week of infection.

Ton Maassen, who is a retired professor of medicine, said that he feels almost as if news about Q fever was being hushed up to protect the agricultural and tourism industries.

He said that people who have depressed immune systems because they are HIV-positive or have recently undergone chemotherapy would benefit from knowing more about the disease.

Peter Schneeberger, a microbiologist at the Jeroen Bosch hospital in Den Bosch, said that doctors are not even entirely certain that the disease comes from goats.

He said that the only thing about which researchers are entirely certain is that the disease is caused by a bacteria called Coxiella burnetii.

The bacterium that causes Q fever is highly infectious, and a single bacteria spore is enough to infect a human being.

Q fever was first described among cattle workers in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

The bacterium that causes the disease, Coxiella burnetii, was first isolated in 1937.



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