Profiling Risk Factors for Household and Community Spatiotemporal Clusters of Q Fever Notifications in Queensland between 2002 and 2017

Pathogens. 2022 Jul 25;11(8):830. doi: 10.3390/pathogens11080830.


Q fever, caused by the bacterium Coxiella burnetii, is an important zoonotic disease worldwide. Australia has one of the highest reported incidences and seroprevalence of Q fever, and communities in the state of Queensland are at highest risk of exposure. Despite Australia's Q fever vaccination programs, the number of reported Q fever cases has remained stable for the last few years. The extent to which Q fever notifications cluster in circumscribed communities is not well understood. This study aimed to retrospectively explore and identify the spatiotemporal variation in Q fever household and community clusters in Queensland reported during 2002 to 2017, and quantify potential within cluster drivers. We used Q fever notification data held in the Queensland Notifiable Conditions System to explore the geographical clustering patterns of Q fever incidence, and identified and estimated community Q fever spatiotemporal clusters using SatScan, Boston, MA, USA. The association between Q fever household and community clusters, and demographic and socioeconomic characteristics was explored using the chi-squared statistical test and logistic regression analysis. From the total 2175 Q fever notifications included in our analysis, we found 356 Q fever hotspots at a mesh-block level. We identified that 8.2% of Q fever notifications belonged to a spatiotemporal cluster. Within the spatiotemporal Q fever clusters, we found 44 (61%) representing household clusters and 20 (27.8%) were statistically significant with an average cluster size of 3 km radius. Our multivariable model shows statistical differences between cases belonging to clusters in comparison with cases outside clusters based on the type of reported exposure. In conclusion, our results demonstrate that clusters of Q fever notifications are temporally stable and geographically circumscribed, indicating a persistent common exposure. Furthermore, within individuals in household and community clusters, abattoir exposure (a traditional occupational exposure) was rarely reported by individuals.

Keywords: Coxiella burnetii; Q fever; Q fever notification; Queensland; cluster analysis; spatiotemporal analysis.

Grant support

This research received no external funding.