Coxiella burnetii Infection Is Lower in Children than in Adults After Community Exposure: Overlooked Cause of Infrequent Q Fever Reporting in the Young

V.H. Hackert*, N.H.T.M. Dukers-Muijrers, I.H.M. van Loo, M. Wegdam-Blans, C. Somers, C.J.P.A. Hoebe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Q fever is rarely reported in children/adolescents. Although lower reporting rates are commonly attributed to milder disease and subsequent underdiagnosis in infected children/adolescents, pertinent evidence is scarce. We present data from a large, well-defined single-point source outbreak of Q fever to fill this gap.

Methods: We compared (A) Q fever testing and notification rates in children/adolescents who were 0-19 years of age with those in adults 20+ years of age in October 2009; (B) serological attack rates of acute Q fever in children/adolescents with the rates in adults after on-source exposure on the outbreak farm's premises; (C) incidence of Q fever infection in children/adolescents with that in adults after off-source exposure in the municipality located closest to the farm.

Results: (A) Children/adolescents represented 19.3% (59,404 of 307,348) of the study area population, 12.1% (149 of 1217) of all subjects tested in October 2009 and 4.3% (11 of 253) of notified laboratory-confirmed community cases. (B) Serological attack rate of acute Q fever in children with on-source exposure was 71% (12 of 17), similar to adults [68% (40 of 59)]. (C) Incidence of infection in children/adolescents after community (off-source) exposure was 4.5% (13 of 287) versus 11.0% (12 of 109) in adults (adjusted odds ratio: 0.36; 95% confidence interval: 0.16-0.84; P = 0.02). No children/adolescents reported clinical symptoms. Proportion of notified infections was significantly lower in children/adolescents (2.5%) than in adults (10.4%; risk ratio: 0.26; 95% confidence interval: 0.08-0.80, P = 0.02).

Conclusion: Notified Q fever was less frequent in children/adolescents than in adults. Although underrecognition contributed to this phenomenon, lower rates of infection in children after community exposure played an unexpected major role. On-source (presumed high-dose) exposure, by contrast, was associated with high serological and clinical attack rates not only in adults but also in children/adolescents. Our findings allow for improved age-specific clinical and public health risk assessment in Q fever outbreaks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1283-1288
Number of pages6
JournalPediatric Infectious Disease Journal
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2015


  • Q Fever
  • children
  • adolescents
  • epidemiology
  • incidence


Dive into the research topics of 'Coxiella burnetii Infection Is Lower in Children than in Adults After Community Exposure: Overlooked Cause of Infrequent Q Fever Reporting in the Young'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this