2010 – 2011: A retrospective look at Q-fever in deer

This project has been completed and the results have been published in Emerging Infectious Diseases.

In brief, the results show that deer can be infected with the pathogen responsible for Q-fever (Coxiella burnettii); existing hygiene and biosecurity measures remain valid.

The Project

From 2007 to 2010 there was a human Q-fever epidemic in the Netherlands. Q-fever is caused by infection with the bacteria Coxiella burnetii. Epidemiological investigations demonstrated that the outbreak was related to infection on dairy goat farms undergoing abortion storms. The main means of transmission to humans and other species (including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians) is via inhalation of infectious particles; ticks can become infected via ingestion of blood from infected animals. Little is known about the occurrence of C. burnetii infections in Dutch wildlife.

This project aims to provide stakeholders such as hunters and site managers with more information about the occurrence of C. burnetii infections in deer and the associated risks of handling carcasses as well as the effect on deer populations.

This project, funded by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV), will involve the retrospective analysis of stored serum and tissue samples from deer previously submitted to the DWHC for post-mortem investigation. The tests, carried out by the Central Veterinary Institute (CVI), will identify the presence of i) antibodies in the sera samples and ii) of the bacteria itself in tissues.