A systematic review of global Q fever outbreaks

Tabita Tan, Jane Heller, Simon Firestone, Mark Stevenson, Anke Wiethoelter

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Q fever is an important zoonotic disease with a worldwide distribution. Outbreaks of Q fever are unpredictable and can affect many people, resulting in a significant burden on public health. The epidemiology of the disease is complex and substantial efforts are required to understand and control Q fever outbreaks. The purpose of this study was to systematically review previous investigations of outbreaks and summarise important epidemiological features. This will improve knowledge of the factors driving the occurrence of Q fever outbreaks and assist decision makers in implementing mitigation strategies. A search of four electronic databases identified 94 eligible articles published in English between 1990 and 2022 that related to 81 unique human Q fever outbreaks. Outbreaks were reported across 27 countries and mostly in industrialised nations. Documented Q fever outbreaks varied in size (2 to 4107 cases) and duration (4 to 1722 days). Most outbreaks (43/81) occurred in communities outside of traditional at-risk occupational settings and were frequently associated with living in proximity to livestock holdings (21/43). Indirect transmission via environmental contamination, windborne spread or fomites was the most common route of infection, particularly for large community outbreaks. Exposure to ruminants and/or their products were confirmed as the principal risk factors for infection, with sheep (28/81) as the most common source followed by goats (12/81) and cattle (7/81). Cooperation and data sharing between human and animal health authorities is valuable for outbreak investigation and control using public health and veterinary measures, but this multisectoral approach was seldom applied (14/81). Increased awareness of Q fever among health professionals and the public may facilitate the early detection of emerging outbreaks that are due to non-occupational, environmental exposures in the community.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100667
JournalOne Health
Early online dateDec 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2024


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