Q Fever: Silencing The Silent Killer

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Samuel Oyejola FASLN and Dr Zarah Yusuf FASLN

Aminu Sulaimon walked out of the health centre with his wife who was hospitalized for a couple of days in the sunny scotch sun of Kawu village in Bwari Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory. He was less concerned about the unfriendly element; his major worry was the state of health of his wife, Amina, who was at a convalescent stage in the wake of a sudden miscarriage. She is one of the few persons that have swelled the number of mischarges in Bwari Area Council.


Bwari Area Council is one of the largest of the seven Area Councils that make up the FCT. It is majorly a rural council with various rural settlements. As a result, it boasts of agriculture settlements and livestock markets. The council plays host to most cattle herders who are attracted to the area by the inviting vegetation.


The council also attracts people from the nooks and crannies of the capital city and the neighboring Kaduna state who come to the popular Dutse market on weekly basis to buy and sell farm products. The local abattoir is also a beehive of activities. Investigation by African Science Literacy Network (ASLN) Fellows revealed that in spite the regulation for a proper inspection of cows marked for slaughter and eventual human consumption, the public abattoir seldom regard the regulation. The abattoir is anything but hygienic.


“It is true, we have to follow the usual protocol, but you find out that due to the high demand, there is actually no time to do the needful, so while some of the cows meant for slaughter are on the line for inspection, we slaughter some,” Abubakar, popularly called Abu, a butcher at the Dutse Alhaji Market told our correspondent.


He revealed that since most of the cattle that are submitted for inspection scale through the test, there is less need to follow the protocol explained that the process is time consuming and needless, if the cattle are physically healthy.


However, although Amina and Aminu are not butchers, neither do they live close to the abattoir, they are however part of the millions consumers of beef that come out of the abattoir. The cause of the increased miscarriages is therefore not farfetched. This could result from Q Fever. Also called query fever, Q Fever is a bacterial infection caused by the bacteria Coxiella burnetii most commonly found in cattle, sheep, and goats around the world.


“Q Fever is a factor that can lead to miscarriages, especially when bacteria in an environment contaminated with secreta and excreta of infected animals are aerosolized. It can also be contacted by humans when there is any direct contact with infected animal,” Dr. Felicia Agbo explained to the ASLN Fellows.

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Photo credit: Daily Nigerian

Although the true incidence of spontaneous abortions is unknown, about 10% to 15% of clinically recognized pregnancies end in spontaneous abortions and the total pregnancy loss is estimated to be 30-50% pf all conceptions. However, Q Fever represents one of the main cause of abortion in Nigeria with the increasing rate of cattle herders moving their cattle into urban settlements for grazing. the air-borne nature of the bacteria increase transmission to humans.


Amina could probably be exposed to zonotic disease like Q Fever though inhaling of air contaminated with secreta and excreta of infected animals.


Q Fever is a bacterial infection caused by Coxiella burnetii, a bacteria commonly found in cattle, sheep and goats. It is transmitted to humans through inhaling of dust contaminated by infected animals.


According to Dr. Sunday Abulu, the disease may be one of the underlining factors that have led to the high rate of miscarriages in the country. He revealed that the veterinary association in the FCT is working with other stakeholders to ensure that pasturalists are sensitized on the need to allow fresh milk pass through heat in order to prevent zoonotic diseases like Q fever.


“From time to time at different time of the year, we go to all these settlements to advise and sensitize cattle herders on the need to be hygienic and take precaution when attending to their cattle and other domestic animals,” he said.


Although the Director of Veterinary Services of the Federal Capital Territory, Dr. Regina Adulugba was not available for interview requested by our correspondent, a staff of the office who craved anonymity revealed to ASLN Fellows that the department is already working on a draft policy that would set standard for all cattle settlements and farms in order to ensure proper hygienic raring of cattle and other ruminant animals in the FCT.

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