In the Dutch 2007-2009 Q fever outbreak Coxiella burnetii was transmitted aerogenically from dairy goat farms to those living in the surrounding areas. Relatively few children were reported. The true number of pediatric infections is unknown. In this study, we estimate the expected number of acute and chronic childhood infections.
As Coxiella was transmitted aerogenic to those living near infected dairy goat farms, we could use adult seroprevalence data to estimate infection risk for inhabitants, children and adults alike. Using Statistics Netherlands data we estimated the number of children at (high) risk for developing chronic Q fever. Literature was reviewed for childhood (0-15 years) Q fever reports and disease rates. We compared this with Dutch reported and our estimated data for 2007-2009.
In The Netherlands epidemic, 44 children were reported (1.2 % of total notifications). The childhood incidence was 0.15 compared to 2.6 per 10,000 inhabitants for adults. No complications were reported. Based on the expected similarity in childhood and adult exposure we assume that 9.8 % of children in the high-risk area had Q fever infection, resulting in 1562 acute infections during the Q fever epidemic interval. Based on the prevalence of congenital heart disease, at least 13 children are at high risk for developing chronic Q fever. In medical literature, 42 case reports described 140 childhood Q fever cases with a serious outcome (four deaths). In chronic Q fever, cardiac infections were predominant. Four outbreaks were reported involving children, describing 11 childhood cases. 36 National and/or regional studies reported seroprevalences varying between 0 and 70 %.
In the 3-year Dutch epidemic, few childhood cases were reported, with pulmonary symptoms leading, and none with a serious presentation. With an estimated 13 high-risk children for chronic infection in the high exposure area, and probably forty in the whole country, we may expect several chronic Q fever complications in the coming years in paediatric practice.