The old Tabitha Clinic in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya. Carolina for Kibera, a non-profit group, has since raised funds to build a new clinic, which is currently operating.

Barnyard dust. Annoying? Yes. Allergenic? Perhaps.

But lethal?

Barnyard dust is transmitting a potentially deadly bacteria, Coxiella burnetti, from animals to humans. In certain regions of sub-Saharan Africa, many children brought in with a fever are assumed to have malaria when the actual culprit is Q-fever—caused by Coxiella burnetti bacteria carried by that barnyard dust. It can lead to severe disease and preventable deaths.

Collaborative efforts between scientists at the Allen School at WSU, the University of Glasgow, the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center and Duke University, are working to identify the sources and strains involved in the transmission of Q-fever from animals to humans (zoonotic transmissions).

Even small improvements in diagnosis and management of non-malaria febrile illnesses, such as Q-fever, can lead to major health gains through appropriate treatment and save lives. Understanding the transmissions of disease from animals to humans (zoonosis) is vital to help community residents and medical professionals better recognize the causes and symptoms of the disease.

Improving zoonotic disease control through preventive vaccination is a primary goal of the Allen School.

C. burnetii is transmitted from cattle, sheep, and other ruminant livestock to humans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, C. burnetii can be excreted in milk, urine, and feces of infected animals and it is resistant to heat and many common disinfectants. Adults and children most often become infected by inhaling the bacteria from barnyard dust contaminated by placenta material or birth fluids of an infected animal.

Non-malaria febrile illnesses such as leptospirosis, Q-fever, and brucellosis can cause reproductive problems and loss of milk production in livestock. For families in rural Tanzania who rely on livestock for food and income, these diseases have serious implications to people's livelihood, health, and well-being.


Non-malaria febrile illnesses such as Q-fever, leptospirosis, and brucellosis can be transmitted to children and adults through other fluids of an infected animal. Deploying vaccines to prevent the disease in animals will reduce the transmission of the disease to people.

Q-fever and other non-malaria febrile illnesses are found all over the world. Read about Q-fever in Washington State.