Open Access Open Badges Research article

The health status of Q-fever patients after long-term follow-up

Gabriëlla Morroy12*, Jeannette B Peters34, Malou van Nieuwenhof1, Hans HJ Bor2, Jeannine LA Hautvast2, Wim van der Hoek5, Clementine J Wijkmans12 and Jan H Vercoulen34

Author affiliations

1 Department of Infectious Disease Control, Municipal Health Service Hart voor Brabant, 's-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands

2 Academic Collaborative Centre AMPHI, Department of Primary and Community Care, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, the Netherlands

3 Department of Medical Psychology, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, the Netherlands

4 Department of Pulmonary Diseases, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, the Netherlands

5 Centre for Infectious Disease Control, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, Bilthoven, the Netherlands

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Citation and License

BMC Infectious Diseases 2011, 11:97  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-11-97

Published: 18 April 2011



In the Netherlands, from 2007 to 2009, 3,522 Q-fever cases were notified from three outbreaks. These are the largest documented outbreaks in the world. Previous studies suggest that symptoms can persist for a long period of time, resulting in a reduced quality of life (QoL). The aim of this study was to qualify and quantify the health status of Q-fever patients after long-term follow-up.


870 Q-fever patients of the 2007 and 2008 outbreaks were mailed a questionnaire 12 to 26 months after the onset of illness. We assessed demographic data and measured health status with the Nijmegen Clinical Screening Instrument (NCSI). The NCSI consists of three main domains of functional impairment, symptoms and QoL that are divided into eight sub-domains. The NCSI scores of Q-fever patients older than 50 years (N = 277) were compared with patients younger than 50 years (N = 238) and with norm data from healthy individuals (N = 65) and patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (N = 128).


The response rate was 65.7%. After applying exclusion criteria 515 Q-fever patients were included in this study. The long-term health status of two thirds of Q-fever patients (both younger and older than 50 years) was severely affected for at least one sub-domain. Patients scores were most severely affected on the sub-domains general QoL (44.9%) and fatigue (43.5%). Hospitalisation in the acute phase was significantly related to long-term behavioural impairment (OR 2.8, CI 1.5-5.1), poor health related QoL (OR 2.3,CI 1.5-4.0) and subjective symptoms (OR 1.9, CI 1.1-3.6). Lung or heart disease, depression and arthritis significantly affected the long-term health status of Q-fever patients.


Q-fever patients presented 12 to 26 months after the onset of illness severe -clinically relevant- subjective symptoms, functional impairment and impaired QoL. All measured sub-domains of the health status were impaired. Hospitalisation and co-morbidity were predictors for worse scores. Our data emphasise that more attention is needed not only to prevent exposure to Q-fever but also for the prevention and treatment of the long-term consequences of this zoönosis.

Q-fever; Coxiella burnetii; cohort; integral health status; quality of life