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Q Fever Risk Across a Dynamic, Heterogeneous Landscape in Laikipia County, Kenya


Two hundred fourteen serosamples were collected from four livestock species across five ranches in Laikipia County, Kenya. Serological analysis for Coxiella burnetii (the causative agent for Q fever) showed a distinct seroprevalence gradient: the lowest in cattle, higher in sheep and goats, and the highest in camels. Laikipia-wide aerial counts show a recent increase in the camel population. One hundred fifty-five stakeholder interviews revealed concern among veterinary, medical, ranching, and conservation professionals about Q fever. Local pastoralists and persons employed as livestock keepers, in contrast, revealed no knowledge of the disease. This work raises questions about emerging Q fever risk in Laikipia County and offers a framework for further integrative disease research in East African mixed-use systems.

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We thank the residents, the research assistants, and the Chiefs of Ilmotiok, Tiemamut, and Lekiji communities, as well as the workers and management of Mpala Research Centre for their support of our research. Jeremiah Leting, Manager at Mpala Ranch and Michael Littlewood, Mpala Conservancy Manager, facilitated serological sampling of livestock at Mpala and surrounding ranches, investing enormous time and energy. We thank Stella Gaichugi and Rose Matua for their careful work testing the serological samples; Dr. Abid Butt at the Nanyuki Cottage Hospital, Nanyuki, Kenya, for his insightful discussion of Q fever as a public health issue; Victoria Ramenzoni for her thoughtful and incisive comments and review; and Jamie Leasia for her research support on the project through the University of Michigan’s Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program. Daniel Rubenstein (EEB, Princeton University) was invaluable in the conception and preparation of this study. We appreciate the support of the Executive Director of the Laikipia Wildlife Forum and representatives from the Kenyan Ministries and University of Nairobi for this research. Finally, we thank the Office of the President of the Republic of Kenya and National Museums of Kenya for permission to conduct research (Permits NCST/RRI/12/1/BS-011/064 and NCST/RRI/12/1/BS-011/18).

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Correspondence to Joseph N. S. Eisenberg.

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DePuy, W., Benka, V., Massey, A. et al. Q Fever Risk Across a Dynamic, Heterogeneous Landscape in Laikipia County, Kenya. EcoHealth 11, 429–433 (2014).

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  • Q fever
  • C. burnetii
  • Laikipia County
  • Kenya
  • Livestock
  • Camels
  • Zoonotic pathogen