Q fever is a bacterial infection you can catch from infected farm animals such as sheep, cattle and goats. It's usually harmless, but can cause serious problems in some people.
Q fever doesn't always cause symptoms. Some people get flu-like symptoms within 2 to 3 weeks of being infected, such as:
Symptoms of Q fever usually last up to 2 weeks.
Q fever is most often spread to humans by close contact with infected farm animals.
The bacteria can be spread by contact with:
The bacteria in these products can be breathed in.
You can also get Q fever from drinking unpasteurised milk (milk that hasn't been heated to kill bacteria), but this is less likely.
Although Q fever is rare, people who work closely with animals are more at risk, such as farmers, vets, stablehands and abattoir workers.
Q fever is usually harmless, but in rare cases it can lead to serious problems.
If your GP thinks you might have Q fever, they can arrange a blood test to see if you have been infected.
If you're pregnant and you test positive for Q fever, your GP can refer you for more tests to see if your baby has been infected. This is very rare.
If your symptoms are severe or they're not getting better, your GP may prescribe a 1- or 2-week course of antibiotics.
It's important to finish the whole course of antibiotics, even if you start to feel better.
There is no vaccine for Q fever. If you work with animals:
It's especially important for pregnant women to avoid contact with sheep and lambs during the lambing season, between January and April.
Do not touch anything that might have come into contact with ewes or lambs, such as gloves or boots.
Pregnant women who catch Q fever don't usually have any symptoms, so it's better to avoid any risk.
In a few people with Q fever, the symptoms can last for months. This is known as chronic Q fever.
Chronic Q fever sometimes leads to serious heart problems, such as endocarditis.
People with chronic Q fever may need a much longer course of antibiotics and treatment in hospital for any complications that develop.