Page last updated at 18:25 GMT, Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Netherlands to cull 35,000 goats in Q fever fight

A farm in the Netherlands (file)
This outbreak of Q fever first appeared on Dutch farms in 2007

The Dutch authorities are to slaughter 34,000 pregnant goats, and a further 1,200 male goats, to stop an outbreak of Q fever spreading to humans.

Q fever has been found in 55 Dutch farms so far, and six farm workers have died this year.

A total of 10 workers have died since the current outbreak began in 2007.

Q fever is caused by a bacterium which passes to humans from goats and sheep. In humans, it causes flu-like symptoms and in rare cases can be fatal.

Most of the farms affected are in the southern Brabant province and the slaughter will account for more than half their total livestock.

Vaccine shortage

All breeding on sheep and goat farms is to be prohibited until July 2010.

The slaughter was originally intended to include only non-vaccinated pregnant goats but was extended to vaccinated animals too on affected farms as a result of recent health advice.

The Netherlands launched an obligatory animal vaccination campaign at the start of 2009 but a shortage of vaccine meant the whole country could not be covered.

Q fever is caused by the coxiella burnetii bacterium.

A single organism is enough to infect a human but experts say if treated appropriately it should not prove fatal except in rare cases.

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