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Post-infection fatigue syndrome following Q fever.

J G Ayres, N Flint, E G Smith, W S Tunnicliffe, T J Fletcher, K Hammond, D Ward, B P Marmion
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/qjmed/91.2.105 105-123 First published online: 1 February 1998


In 1989, 147 individuals in the West Midlands, UK, were infected with Q fever. Five years later, following anecdotal reports of fatigue, we used a questionnaire-based case-control study to determine the prevalence of chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms in this group. Replies from 71 patients were compared with those from 142 age- and sex-matched controls. Increased sweating (52.9% vs. 31.6%, p = 0.006), breathlessness (50.7% vs. 30.6%, p = 0.006), blurred vision (34.3% vs. 17.8%, p = 0.016) and undue tiredness (68.7% vs. 51.5%, p = 0.03) were found in controls compared to cases. These findings were similar to those in Australian abbatoir workers occupationally exposed to Q fever. CDC criteria for chronic fatigue syndrome were fulfilled by 42.3% of cases and 26% of controls. Using visual analogue scores, symptoms were more severe in cases than in controls. Our findings support the existence of a chronic fatigue state following acute Q fever, in a group of patients exposed just once to the organism, and in circumstances free of such confounding factors as lawsuits over compensation.