Minimizing the risk of Q fever in the hospital setting.
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Q fever is caused by a rickettsial microorganism (Coxiella burnetii) harboured in sheep. The highest concentration of organisms are found in birth products. It is a very contagious organism which humans can contract by inhaling aerosolized organisms. Most commonly it leads to an acute 'flu-like illness. Rarely, chronic disease with endocarditis is fatal. Infected patients should be treated with tetracyclines or chloramphenicol. A number of outbreaks have been reported in hospital and research settings. Because of the fear of patients and staff contracting Q fever, Hospital Research Review Boards have increasingly resisted the presence of sheep in medical facilities. The authors have reviewed the circumstances leading to these outbreaks and believe researchers can minimize the risk of Q fever. The most important precautions are to use sheep only from Q fever controlled flocks and, depending on the nature of the research, only male sheep.
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