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Q fever patients are often reported to experience a long-term impaired health status, including fatigue, which can persist for many years. During the large Q fever epidemic in The Netherlands, many patients with a laboratory-confirmed Coxiella burnetii infection were not notified as acute Q fever because they did not fulfil the clinical criteria of the acute Q fever case definition (fever, pneumonia and/or hepatitis). Our study assessed and compared the long-term health status of notified and non-notified Q fever patients at 4 years after onset of illness, using the Nijmegen Clinical Screening Instrument (NCSI). The study included 448 notified and 193 non-notified Q fever patients. The most severely affected subdomain in both patient groups was ‘Fatigue’ (50·5% of the notified and 54·6% of the non-notified patients had severe fatigue). Long-term health status did not differ significantly between the notified and non-notified patient groups, and patients scored worse on all subdomains compared to a healthy reference group. Our findings suggest that the magnitude of the 2007–2009 Q fever outbreak in The Netherlands was underestimated when only notified patients according to the European Union case definition are considered.
Patients with a lower respiratory tract infection (LRTI) might be at risk for long-term impaired health status. We assessed whether LRTI patients without Q fever are equally at risk for developing long-term symptoms compared to LRTI patients with Q fever. The study was a cross-sectional cohort design. Long-term health status information of 50 Q fever-positive and 32 Q fever-negative LRTI patients was obtained. Health status was measured by the Nijmegen Clinical Screening Instrument. The most severely affected subdomains of the Q fever-positive group were ‘general quality of life’ (40%) and ‘fatigue’ (40%). The most severely affected subdomains of the Q fever-negative group were ‘fatigue’ (64%) and ‘subjective pulmonary symptoms’ (35%). Health status did not differ significantly between Q fever-positive LRTI patients and Q fever-negative LRTI patients for all subdomains, except for ‘subjective pulmonary symptoms’ (P = 0·048).
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