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Q fever in dairy cattle herds occurs mainly after inhalation of contaminated aerosols generated from excreta by shedder animals. Propagation of Coxiella burnetii, the cause of the disease between ruminant herds could result from transmission between neighbouring herds and/or the introduction of infected shedder animals in healthy herds. The objective of this study were (i) to describe the spatial distribution C. burnetii-infected dairy cattle herds in two different regions: the Finistère District in France (2,829 herds) and the island of Gotland in Sweden (119 herds) and (ii) to quantify and compare the relative contributions of C. burnetii transmission related to neighbourhood and to animal movements on the risk for a herd to be infected. An enzyme - linked immunosorbent assay was used for testing bulk tank milk in May 2012 and June 2011, respectively. Only one geographical cluster of positive herds was identified in north-western Finistère. Logistic regression was used to assess the association of risk for a herd to test positively with local cattle density (the total number of cattle located in a 5 km radius circle) and the in-degree (ID) parameter, a measure of the number of herds from which each herd had received animals directly within the last 2 years. The risk for a herd to test positively was higher for herds with a higher local cattle density [odds ratio (OR) = 2.3, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.6-3.2, for herds with a local density between 100 and 120 compared to herds with a local density 60]. The risk was also higher for herds with higher IDs (OR = 2.3, 95% CI = 1.6-3.2, for herds with ID 3 compared to herds that did not introduce animals). The proportion of cases attributable to infections in the neighbourhood in high-density areas was twice the proportion attributable to animal movements, suggesting that wind plays a main role in the transmission.
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