Division of Viral and Rickettsial Diseases, National Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control, Public Health Service, US Department of Health and Human Services, Centre National de Reference des Rickettsies, Atlanta, Georgia
An outbreak of Q fever occurred among patients and staff of a psychiatric institution in southern France. Some of the patients and staff left the institution daily to work on a farm where goats were raised for raw milk and cheese production. The goats had all been vaccinated annually with a commercial vaccine containing phase II Coxiella burnetii antigen. A serologic survey revealed that 40 (66%) of the 61 patients and staff had elevated titers to C. burnetii. Seropositive persons were more likely to report an acute illness (P = 0.001), fever (P = 0.04), weakness (P = 0.04), arthralgia (P = 0.04), and headaches (P = 0.06) in the preceding year than were seronegative persons. Seropositivity rates were significantly higher among persons who worked on the farm and consumed unpasteurized milk products (69% [22 of 32]; P = 0.007), those who only had worked on the farm (75% [9 of 12]; P = 0.009), and those who only had consumed unpasteurized milk products (75% [9 of 12]; P = 0.009), compared with those who had not worked with the goats or consumed unpasteurized milk products (0 of 5). Despite vaccination against Q fever, no antibodies to C. burnetii were detectable in 17 (59%) of 29 goats. All 12 seropositive goats had antibodies to both phase I and phase II antigens, indicating that they were naturally infected, and two of three goats examined were shedding C. burnetii in their milk. Vaccination of this herd did not prevent the outbreak and might have increased shedding of C. burnetii in the dairy products.