Biologists track Q-fever in Algonquin Park, Ontario

A bacterium known to cause ‘Q-Fever’ in humans and animals was detected in a high percentage of rodents in Algonquin Park by a  team of Laurentian University biology researchers.

The team, led by Dr. Albrecht Schulte-Hostedde found evidence of the zoonotic bacterium Coxiella bernetii at a higher than expected level in wildlife in the park.  Samples were collected in 2009 and results were recently published in the journal Zoonoses and Public Health.

The bacterium was “detected in six out of seven species of wild rodents tested within the boundaries of Algonquin Park, including red squirrels, flying squirrels and deer mice. It was also found in flying squirrels in the Peterborough area, indicating that the bacteria may be widespread among these animal populations in Ontario.”

According to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) website, “Human Q fever is primarily an occupational disease of farmers, abattoir workers, veterinarians, and laboratory workers.” as they are at a higher risk of infection due to the increased potential of handling infected animals.

In past occurrences, the bacterium has primarily been identified in domestic animals in Ontario and can cause abortions in infected animals.  It has also been found previously in wild animals

Many species of mammals, birds and ticks are reservoirs for the bacterium in nature throughout the world.  These animals rarely develop life-threatening disease, but infection sometimes results in abortion and stillbirths.

Although the risk of contracting the disease from wild animals is very low, the prevalence of these bacteria has been found to vary greatly over time and wild animals may be important to monitor the risk of Q-fever for humans and domestic animals.

Laurentian University press release:


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1 Response

  1. Bob Hilscher says:

    Hi there. I have spent a lot of time in Algonquin Park, and have seen many a Red squirrel over the years, what a surprise to read your article. I live in Toronto, and earlier this year, my wife, Jean, and I were in Ireland where we came upon the rarely seen Red Squirrel. To us, they actually look somewhat like our American Red squirrels, but boy, do they have long ears! We were shocked to learn that U.K. and Irish Red squirrels are contracting the pox virus from Grey squirrels, and dying. We have far to many Grey squirrels here at our feeders. But up north near Algonquin Park we have seen a few Red squirrels. We feel very lucky to have seen two Red squirrels in Ireland. We have posted some of our pictures and video of our Red squirrel sightings in Ireland, and Canada for anyone interested at:

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