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Q Fever: Suspected Intentional Release Overview for Clinicians

Significance for Bioterrorism

  • C. burnetii is a highly infectious agent that is resistant to heat, drying, and many common disinfectants.
  • It can be aerosolized and inhalation is the primary route of infection for humans.
  • As few as 1-10 C. burnetii organisms may cause disease in a susceptible person.
  • This agent has been previously weaponized for use in biological warfare and is considered a potential terrorist threat.
  • WHO has estimated that if 50 kg of C. burnetii were aerosolized over an urban area with 500,000 inhabitants, there would be 125,000 cases of acute illness, 9,000 cases of chronic Q fever, and 150 fatalities (Health aspects of chemical and biological weapons, 1st edition, 1970).
  • Clusters of pneumonia in a community where no other cause can be identified may indicate a possible intentional release of C. burnetii.