Clinicians advised: Q fever mimics influenza symptoms

December 1, 2010

Researchers at the University of Missouri Regional Biocontainment Lab are warning clinicians not to be too quick in diagnosing patients presenting with influenza-like symptoms.

Researchers at the University of Missouri Regional Biocontainment Lab are warning clinicians not to be too quick in diagnosing patients presenting with influenza-like symptoms. It may be Q fever, which is almost identical in presentation and is on the rise worldwide.

Symptoms of Q fever, which include fever, severe headache, cough, body pain, and gastrointestinal symptoms, typically do not surface until 2 to 3 weeks after exposure. Although the disease is most commonly transmitted through the air, it can be acquired by drinking unpasteurized milk or through the bite of infected ticks.

Definitive diagnosis requires a blood test. Antibiotics provide effective treatment, but the disease can be difficult to cure, especially in people with compromised immune systems.

The US Food and Drug Administration has not approved the vaccine currently being used in other countries because it can cause a severe skin reaction in persons already carrying Q fever bacteria. Research on a vaccine with a better safety profile is under way.

For expert comment: 'Q fever' mimics the flu and can be missed by physicians. [news release.] Columbia, Missouri:University of Missouri News Bureau; November 3, 2010. http://munews.missouri.edu/expert-comment/2010/1103-for-expert-comment"q-fever"-mimics-the-flu-and-can-be-missed-by-physicians/. Accessed November 3, 2010.