Investigation of a Q fever outbreak in a Scottish co-located slaughterhouse and cutting plant

Zoonoses Public Health. 2010 Dec;57(7-8):493-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1863-2378.2009.01251.x.


Outbreaks of Q fever are rare in the UK. In 2006, the largest outbreak of Q fever in Scotland occurred at a co-located slaughterhouse and cutting plant with 110 cases. Preliminary investigations pointed to the sheep lairage being the potential source of exposure to the infective agent. A retrospective cohort study was carried out among workers along with environmental sampling to guide public health interventions. A total of 179 individuals were interviewed of whom 66 (37%) were migrant workers. Seventy-five (41.9%) were serologically confirmed cases. Passing through a walkway situated next to the sheep lairage, a nearby stores area, and being male were independently associated with being serologically positive for Q fever. The large proportion of migrant workers infected presented a significant logistical problem during outbreak investigation and follow up. The topic of vaccination against Q fever for slaughterhouse workers is contentious out with Australasia, but this outbreak highlights important occupational health issues.

MeSH terms

  • Abattoirs*
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / blood
  • Cohort Studies
  • Coxiella burnetii / immunology
  • Coxiella burnetii / isolation & purification*
  • Data Collection
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Q Fever / diagnosis
  • Q Fever / epidemiology*
  • Q Fever / parasitology
  • Q Fever / transmission
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Rural Population
  • Scotland / epidemiology
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies
  • Sheep
  • Transients and Migrants*
  • Young Adult


  • Antibodies, Bacterial