Disease Risk Surface for Coxiella burnetii Seroprevalence in White-Tailed Deer


  • Places where work was carried out: State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, New York Animal Health Diagnostic Lab at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.

M. S. Kirchgessner. Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, 4010 West Broad Street, Richmond, VA 23230, USA. Tel.: 804-367-8944; Fax: 804-367-2427; E-mail: megan.kirchgessner@dgif.virginia.gov


Coxiella burnetii is considered a re-emerging zoonosis in many countries. The bacterium is enzootic in livestock and wildlife in the United States, and environmental contamination is widespread. Despite the potential for exposure, the estimated prevalence of Q fever in humans and animals is not well elucidated, and reported human infections in the United States are relatively rare. Zoonotic transmission of the bacterium is usually associated with abortions in domestic ruminants, but other modes of transmission, such as contact with infected blood and/or milk during field dressing of infected wildlife, have not been thoroughly investigated. Studies of zoonotic pathogen transmission between animal reservoir hosts and humans are usually established in response to documented emergence or re-emergence of a zoonosis in a particular locale, and, as such, the prevalence of infection in wildlife is largely unknown for many zoonotic pathogens, including C. burnetii. The objective of this study was to create a disease risk surface for C. burnetii seroprevalence in wild white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in New York State. Blood samples were collected from hunter-harvested deer from across New York State in 2009 and 2010. The samples were processed and tested for the presence of anti-C. burnetii antibodies via indirect microimmunofluorescence assays using phase II C. burnetii strain RSA439. Overall, 14.50% of the tested white-tailed deer were C. burnetii phase II seropositive. The dual Kernel density estimation method was used to create a smoothed disease risk surface, which revealed variation in seroprevalence ranging from 0% to 32.0%. Areas of higher seroprevalence were detected in four discrete areas of Central New York and in one additional area in the southwest corner of the northern part of the state. This suggests certain locales where humans may be at increased risk for exposure to the bacterium secondary to contact with potentially infected deer.