Farm Disease Spreads to Humans

Agricultural officials in Washington and Montana have detected a new biological threat to human health on Northwestern goat farms. A bacterial infection known as Q fever seems to have spread from goats to humans in that region, worrying some health officials over potential outbreaks. So far, five people have been sickened in the Moses Lake area of central Washington, with the initial outbreak being traced back to Cascade and Teton Counties in Montana, where six people have been sickened.

Q fever presents much like the flu. Common symptoms include high fever, malaise, severe headache, muscle pain, coughing, nausea, and other gastrointestinal illnesses. The symptoms usually last from one to two weeks. Although typically a minor concern, rare cases can lead to more serious symptoms, including pneumonia and other potentially deadly reparatory ailments.

Washington health officials pointed out that human cases of Q fever are usually rare, with no more than three instances per year. Officials are at a loss to explain the sudden spike. Currently, it is unclear whether the increased diagnoses are the result of higher awareness of Q fever leading to more accurate diagnoses, or if it is a case of the disease spreading more quickly.

Farm workers, particularly those at goat farms, are vulnerable to the disease, which can be spread through inhaling the dust of infected animals. Left untreated, the disease can lead to more serious complications, so health officials in Washington and Montana are urging farm workers to be aware of symptoms.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer