Seroprevalence to Coxiella burnetii Among Residents of the Hunter New England Region of New South Wales, Australia

Aminul Islam Department of Microbiology, Hunter Area Pathology Service, Pathology North, John Hunter Hospital, New South Wales, Australia; Australian Rickettsial Reference Laboratory, Barwon Health, Geelong, Victoria, Australia

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John Ferguson Department of Microbiology, Hunter Area Pathology Service, Pathology North, John Hunter Hospital, New South Wales, Australia; Australian Rickettsial Reference Laboratory, Barwon Health, Geelong, Victoria, Australia

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Rod Givney Department of Microbiology, Hunter Area Pathology Service, Pathology North, John Hunter Hospital, New South Wales, Australia; Australian Rickettsial Reference Laboratory, Barwon Health, Geelong, Victoria, Australia

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Stephen Graves Department of Microbiology, Hunter Area Pathology Service, Pathology North, John Hunter Hospital, New South Wales, Australia; Australian Rickettsial Reference Laboratory, Barwon Health, Geelong, Victoria, Australia

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Exposure to Coxiella burnetii is a risk in the Hunter New England (HNE) region of New South Wales (NSW), Australia, based on yearly reported cases of Q fever. We assessed seroprevalence of phase II antibodies to C. burnetii by indirect immunofluorescence assay (IFA; screening at 1/50 dilution) of residents of 24 local government areas (LGA) of the HNE region of NSW. A total of 2,438 randomly selected sera sent to the Hunter Area Pathology Service for routine diagnostic purposes (not Q fever testing) during the period of 2006–2009 were tested. The overall seroprevalence in sample group was 7%. The proportion of males (59%) was higher than females (41%). In age distribution, the largest proportion (37%) of seropositives was in the > 60 years age group. Lower prevalence was observed in 0–9 years (1%) and 10–19 years (5%) age groups. The seroprevalence in different LGAs varied between 0.5% and 22%. It was highest in Guyra (22%), Gunnedah (21%), Tenterfield (18%), and Narrabri (16%), with Newcastle (0.5%), Port Stephens (2%), Lake Macquarie (3%), and Singleton (3%) being the lowest. In most of the LGAs, seroprevalence was between 6% and 12%. This report indicates a considerable exposure to C. burnetii of residents in rural areas of the HNE region and is consistent with the high notification rate for Q fever in this part of Australia.

Author Notes

*Address correspondence to Aminul Islam, Department of Microbiology, Hunter Area Pathology Service, John Hunter Hospital, Locked Bag 1, Hunter Region Mail Centre, New South Wales 2310, Australia. E-mail: aminul.islam@hnehealth.nsw.gov.au

Authors' addresses: Aminul Islam and Stephen Graves, Department of Microbiology, Hunter Area Pathology Service, Pathology North, John Hunter Hospital, New South Wales, Australia, and Australian Rickettsial Reference Laboratory, Barwon Health, Geelong, Victoria, Australia, E-mails: aminul.islam@hnehealth.nsw.gov.au and Stephen.Graves@hnehealth.nsw.gov.au. John Ferguson and Rod Givney, Department of Microbiology, Hunter Area Pathology Service, Pathology North, John Hunter Hospital, New South Wales, Australia. E-mails: John.Ferguson@hnehealth.nsw.gov.au and Rodney.Givney@hnehealth.nsw.gov.au.

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