Seroprevalence and risk factors for Coxiella burnetii (Q fever) seropositivity in dairy goat farmers' households in The Netherlands, 2009-2010

PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e42364. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0042364. Epub 2012 Jul 27.


Community Q fever epidemics occurred in The Netherlands in 2007-2009, with dairy goat and dairy sheep farms as the implicated source. The aim of the study was to determine the seroprevalence and risk factors for seropositivity in dairy goat farmers and their household members living or working on these farms. Sera of 268 people living or working on 111 dairy goat farms were tested for Coxiella burnetii IgG and IgM antibodies using immunofluorescence assay. Seroprevalences in farmers, spouses and children (12-17 years) were 73.5%, 66.7%, and 57.1%, respectively. Risk factors for seropositivity were: performing three or more daily goat-related tasks, farm location in the two southern provinces of the country, proximity to bulk milk-positive farms, distance from the nearest stable to residence of 10 meters or less, presence of cats and multiple goat breeds in the stable, covering stable air spaces and staff not wearing farm boots. Goat farmers have a high risk to acquire this occupational infection. Clinicians should consider Q fever in this population presenting with compatible symptoms to allow timely diagnosis and treatment to prevent severe sequelae. Based on the risk factors identified, strengthening general biosecurity measures is recommended such as consistently wearing boots and protective clothing by farm staff to avoid indirect transmission and avoiding access of companion animals in the goat stable. Furthermore, it provides an evidence base for continuation of the current vaccination policy for small ruminants, preventing spread from contaminated farms to other farms in the vicinity. Finally, vaccination of seronegative farmers and household members could be considered.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Cattle
  • Dairying*
  • Dogs
  • Female
  • Goats*
  • Housing*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Q Fever / epidemiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies

Grant support

The study was funded by the Netherlands organisation for health research and development, and co-financed by the Ministery of Public Health and the Ministry of Agriculture. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.