Q fever cases confirmed in eastern Idaho


by Stephanie Zepelin


Posted on June 18, 2012 at 1:39 PM

Updated Sunday, Nov 10 at 3:08 PM

BOISE -- The Idaho State Department of Agriculture says two Idaho goats have tested positive for Q fever. Q fever is a contagious bacteria that affects, sheep, goats and cattle, and it can be spread to humans.

This is not the first case in the state, but this is the first outbreak on record in Idaho. The ISDA is trying to keep it from spreading to more animals, or humans.

"The Department of Agriculture received confirmation that two goats in the state had tested positive for Coxiela burnetii," said Doctor Scott Leibsle of the Idaho State Department of Agriculture.

Coxiela burnetii is the organism that causes Q fever.

"When we got the confirmation of the positive, we notified the owner of the goats and we immediately put the goats under quarantine," said Leibsle.

They caught the disease in a state screening.

"You often don't know your animal is sick until they abort their pregnancy, and typically, livestock don't show any symptoms other than losing their pregnancy."

That's also the time when it's easiest to get and spread the bacteria.

"The greatest risk for humans contracting the disease is the producers and people that handle livestock on a daily basis," Leibsle said.

Last year, KTVB told you about a rancher and basketball coach in Dietrich who caught Q fever from one of his calves. Acey Shaw is still fighting. He can't walk, or use his left arm or leg.

Q fever isn't easy to spot in animals or humans.

"Mostly, it will come out and it will seem like flu symptoms, which is why it's difficult to detect because it manifests itself like a lot of other things," Leibsle said.

Leibsle assured KTVB most folks aren't at risk of catching Q fever.

"The general public, the risk is remote," he said. "The people who should be concerned the most are the producers."

The Idaho State Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health are working to make producers aware. But Leibsle said they are confident the risk to other producers is extremely minimal.

Q fever was first identified in the 1930s. Researchers didn't know what caused the sickness, so they called it "Q" for "query."

The Department of Agriculture says the best way to prevent the spread of Q fever is practicing good bio-security around livestock.

Editor's note: The goats seen in this story were not the ones infected with Q fever.