Diagnosis

To diagnose Q fever, your doctor will perform one or more blood tests, along with additional tests if chronic Q fever is suspected.

Lab tests

Your doctor may want to check your blood for antibodies to the Coxiella burnetii antigen and for evidence of liver damage.

Imaging tests

  • Chest X-ray. Q fever can cause pneumonia in some people. A chest X-ray can be used to see if your lungs look healthy.
  • Echocardiography. If chronic Q fever is suspected, your doctor may do an echocardiogram to check for problems with your heart valves.

Treatment

Q fever is treated with the antibiotic doxycycline. How long you take the medicine depends on whether or not you have acute or chronic Q fever. For acute infections, antibiotic treatment lasts two to three weeks.

People who have chronic Q fever usually must take a combination of antibiotics for at least 18 months. Even after successful chronic Q fever treatment, you'll need to go back for follow-up tests for years in case the infection returns.

Mild or nonsymptomatic cases of acute Q fever often get better with no treatment. However, if you have symptoms of Q fever or if you're pregnant, antibiotic treatment is recommended. Your treatment plan may vary if you're unable to take doxycycline.

If you have Q fever endocarditis, you may need surgery to replace damaged heart valves.

Preparing for your appointment

You might first visit your primary care doctor because of your symptoms. He or she might refer you to an infectious disease specialist.

Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what you might expect from your doctor.

What you can do

  • Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, be sure to ask if you need to do anything in advance, such as restrict your diet.
  • Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
  • Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
  • Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements that you're taking.
  • Write down questions to ask your doctor.

Preparing a list of questions can help you make the most of your appointment time. For Q fever, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:

  • What's the most likely cause of my symptoms?
  • What kinds of tests do I need? Do these tests require any special preparation?
  • Is this condition temporary or long lasting?
  • What treatments are available, and which do you recommend?
  • What types of side effects can I expect from treatment?
  • Are there any alternatives to the primary approach that you're suggesting?
  • I have other health conditions. How can I best manage these conditions together?
  • Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What websites do you recommend visiting?

In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment at any time that you don't understand something.

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over any points you want to spend more time on. Your doctor may ask:

  • When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
  • Do you have symptoms all the time or do they come and go?
  • Does anything seem to improve or worsen your symptoms?
  • Have you ever been diagnosed with heart valve problems or had heart surgery?
  • Have you been exposed to any barnyard or livestock environments recently?
  • Have you come into contact with newborn animals within the past few weeks?
  • Do you live near a large farming area?
  • Are you pregnant?
  • Have you recently traveled abroad?
Aug. 29, 2017
References
  1. Longo DL, et al., eds. Rickettsial diseases. In: Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 19th ed. New York, N.Y.: McGraw-Hill Education; 2015. http://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com. Accessed Feb. 22, 2017.
  2. Raoult D. Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of Q fever. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 22, 2017.
  3. Raoult D. Treatment and prevention of Q fever. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 22, 2017.
  4. Q fever. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/qfever/index.html. Accessed Feb. 22, 2017.
  5. Papadakis MA, et al., eds. Viral and rickettsial infections. In: Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment 2017. 56th ed. New York, N.Y.: McGraw-Hill Education; 2017. http://www.accessmedicine.mhmedical.com. Accessed Feb. 22, 2017.