Holland Goes to Extremes to Fight Q Fever
Thousands of Dutch people are grappling with a rare disease. He said, "I don't feel too well," but he just went to work and kept going, while I could see very well that something wasn't right. It's really worrying. Truck driver Frank Van Lent's delivery days might be over. Now he has just enough energy to walk his dog.
His symptoms began 10 months ago. Fatigue, fever. And at certain moments, you get headaches, bone aches, heart palpitations. Van Lent's doctor was stumped, and Van Lent was frustrated. I don't know. I don't know. There wasn't enough known.
-There wasn't enough known. Then he heard on the radio about an outbreak of an illness transmitted by livestock. It was only a suggestion. I didn't know it myself. He was right. The diagnosis: Q fever, caused by a bacteria so infectious and resistant that the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers it a potential terrorist threat. Jos van de Sande heads the infectious disease unit at the local public health department. It's always been an occupational disease for farmers, slaughterhouse personnel and veterinarians. That's changed.
In 2007, the Netherlands had fewer than 200 cases of Q fever. Last year, it had more than 2,000. At least nine people have died. Most of these people have no connection at all to farms. And now Q fever can be spread through the air (is airborne), and the whole population can get it. Q fever used to be spread only through direct contact between animals and people. Why that has changed isn't entirely clear. The Dutch government has cracked down on what is believed to be the source of the problem: the growing number of goat farms.
Jeannette Van den Ven's milk goats would normally be louder this time of year. We're going to the stables. Over there you see the stable for the younger stock. Normally, it's filled with young lambs born at this time of year.
But nowadays, it's very quiet. No lambs are born. And over here you can see some goats, only the not-pregnant ones.
These are the goats left on Van den Ven's farm. When you get very close, they start eating your clothes. Under government orders, if any goats on a farm test positive for Q fever, all of the pregnant ones must be killed. And farmers aren't allowed to breed goats until July. That's because the bacteria that causes Q fever is released into the air when infected goats miscarry their babies. They just said, "Pregnant goats (present) the (greatest) risk of contamination. Let's kill all the pregnant goats, contaminated or not." And that's very hard.
Her goats can't have babies, so they won't produce milk. These goats won't get pregnant anymore. And, also, the males won't be used to breed, so the only solution is to sell them to the (slaughterhouse). These measures seem draconian to farmers, especially because the Netherlands finally has enough doses of a goat vaccine. In past years, there weren't enough to go around. It's not even clear that the killings will stop the spread of Q fever, because there are simply so many farms squeezed into this crowded country. Not only humans, but other farms within the area can become infected very easily.
The farms are so close together in the Netherlands that the disease can very likely spread from farm to farm without transporting the animals. While Q fever is not yet a big problem in neighboring countries, the European Union is watching carefully. Already, the disease has spread to a few Belgian farms on the border, and Q fever is not easy to treat. I thought to myself when I was diagnosed, you have Q fever and you think, antibiotics will have you up and running again in a week or two. But unfortunately, that's still not the case.
Even after 10 months, Van Lent's doctors still haven't found medicine to make him feel better.
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