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Objective—To describe the epizootiological investigation of an outbreak of Q fever (Coxiella burnetii infection).

Design—Epidemiological study.

Animals—17 goat herds in Washington, Montana, and Oregon.

Procedures—In April 2011, an abortion storm at a commercial goat farm in Washington was determined to be caused by C burnetii. A joint epidemiological investigation by public health and veterinary professionals was subsequently performed to assess the extent of the outbreak by performing a trace-forward of goats sold from the index farm, to determine risk factors associated with infection, and to implement control measures. A herd management plan was developed to control the outbreak and reduce risk of human exposure. Quarantine and temporary holds preventing the sale or movement of goats allowed time for trace-forward investigation, education of farmers regarding disease risk, and testing to determine the scope of the outbreak.

Results—17 farms were affected; 21 human Q fever cases were identified. Bacterial shedding in feces, vaginal fluid, or milk was confirmed in 156 of 629 (25%) goats tested by PCR assay. Seroprevalence of antibodies against C burnetii in goats, determined by ELISA, was 12%. The risk for C burnetii infection in goats was highest among females, those on farms associated with human Q fever, and those on Washington farms. A protective effect was observed for goats at farms where the primary form of goat carcass disposal was burial.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—This outbreak illustrated the importance of a joint investigation for zoonotic pathogens and the need to expand and strengthen relationships between medical, public health, and veterinary partners. Heightened awareness and enhanced veterinary diagnostic capabilities for C burnetii are needed to identify and control outbreaks expediently.

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in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association