Pigeon Pneumonia in Provence: A Bird-Borne Q Fever Outbreak


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Abstract

Q fever is a widespread zoonosis caused by Coxiella burnetii, an obligate intracellular bacterium, which humans usually acquire through the inhalation of infected dust from subclinically infected mammals. Human infection commonly takes place when an infected mammal gives birth, since high concentrations of the organism are found in the products of conception. Worldwide, cattle, sheep, and goats are the most common reservoirs for C. burnetii. A few investigators have also reported parturient cats and dogs as the sources of human outbreaks of Q fever. During a 10-day period in May 1996, all five members of one family living on a farm in Provence, in the south of France, became ill with fever, general malaise, and cough. All of them had acute Q fever. An epidemiological investigation suggested that this outbreak resulted from exposure to contaminated pigeon feces and ticks.

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