Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada: A cat has been diagnosed with Q fever, a bacterial infection (Coxiella burnetii). Until today I hadn’t heard of domestic cats being infected with Q fever. It commonly affects farm animals such as goats, sheep and cattle. Farm workers can catch it from their animals so it is zoonotic (transmits from animals to humans).
Although it is usually harmless in humans it can cause serious problems for some people. They develop flu-like symptoms within 2-3 weeks of being infected. The symptoms last up to 2 weeks.
Transmission of the bacteria occurs via blood, pee, poo, fur and wool for example. The bacteria is inhaled. You can also get it from drinking unpasteurised milk. Treatment is (1) blood tests (2) antibiotics if infected.
Prevention includes don’t (1) help animals give birth (2) touch animal poo, pee, blood or afterbirth (3) drink unpasteurised milk (4) eat in areas where animals are kept (comment: for domestic cats that is impractical and few people do it – do you?).
The experts don’t distinguish between farm animals and domestic cats although there must be a dintinction between how we interact with our cats compared to farm animals.
Perhaps the cat concerned was a farm cat. We are not told. Update: I have noticed that the cat was resident at Dalhousie’s Faculty of Agriculture. Perhaps the cat was a college cat who had mixed with livestock.
Public health officials in Nova Scotia advise that people interacting with animals should practice good hygiene. However, cat owners do not wash their hands after cuddling their cat. I have never heard that advice except I think once I heard it in respect of toxoplasmosis but no one complies.
Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer said:
“For the general public, it’s just keeping this in the right context and practising some good general basic hygiene when it comes to their pets or other animals.”
Are you concerned about getting Q fever from your cat companion? I thought you’d say No. That’s what I’d say although I don’t want someone to lave a comment to tell me they contracted this infection from their cat because I advised them to ignore the official advice.
There is no vaccine for Q fever which is probably because it is not of specific concern for the general public.
The bacteria can live in the environment for over a year. It can also be aerosolised allowing it to travel at least five kilometres.
I am writing this to pass on information, no more. Realistically, I don’t think it is of any real concern to cat owners.
Source of Q fever: NHS.uk. Story: cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia.
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