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Coxiella burnetii is the aetiological agent of Q fever, a zoonotic disease with a worldwide distribution whose main reservoirs are goats, sheep and cattle.1 In ruminants, infection can cause abortion and reproductive problems, with large numbers of infectious organisms shed at parturition, in milk and in urine and faeces. Infection of humans occurs mainly via the respiratory route, with airborne spread possible beyond the boundaries of the infected farm.2 In Ireland, there were six recorded human cases of Q fever in humans in 2016,3 but it is reasonable to assume that the true human incidence is considerably higher.
Infection with C burnetii is common in Irish cattle herds, with previous research estimating a herd prevalence of 37.9 per cent and an animal level prevalence of 1.8 percent.4 The Irish dairy sector is currently expanding following the abolition of EU milk quotas, and the trend indicates a likely expansion of the national dairy herd for some years to come.5 For this reason, we set out to obtain a more accurate estimate of the prevalence of antibodies to C burnetii in Irish dairy herds at this transitional point.
Bulk tank milk (BTM) samples were obtained under a joint industry/government scheme where the main Irish dairy processors sent BTM samples to a Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) veterinary laboratory. Up to 14,464 BTM samples collected …
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