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Coxiella burnetii, the cause of Q fever, is an important zoonotic bacterial pathogen that occurs worldwide and has been extensively reviewed by Angelakis and Raoult (2010). Q fever has assumed increased importance following the large human outbreak in The Netherlands linked to intensive goat farming which led to over 3000 cases between 2007 and 2010 and resulted in major veterinary interventions, including mass vaccination and culling (Delsing and Kullberg 2008, Van den Brom and Vellema 2009, Roest and others 2011).
C burnetii infection does not usually cause significant economic losses to livestock farmers in Great Britain and there are no formal control schemes. It can cause abortion in sheep, goats and cattle but infection is mainly subclinical and very few confirmed diagnoses are recorded each year by the Veterinary Investigation Diagnosis Analysis database. In human beings, infection is mainly asymptomatic. The most common clinical presentation is a flu-like illness, but it can have serious consequences in high-risk groups. The main source of human infection is by aerosol exposure from infected livestock farms and particularly parturition products from infected animals, including aborted fetuses. Advice on Q fever was developed for farmers in Britain following an outbreak in Cheltenham in 2007 linked to airborne spread (Wallensten and others 2010; website reference).