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As If Covid Wasn’t Bad Enough

Q-Fever. Ever hear of it?

Few people had until Guy Kephart got it. And the 48-year-old Boonville native and married father of three children got it big time.

“I was so sick I seriously thought about making out my will. I was sure I was finished.” 

Kephart came down with a fever on April 24th. 

“I immediately self-quarantined and assumed it was covid. I was tested three times and came up negative for covid all three times. But I was getting sicker and sicker. My body ached so bad it hurt to pick up my phone.”

The emergency room in Ukiah was the sick man’s next stop. 

“They told me to go home and sweat it out.” 

If Kephart had followed that advice, he might be dead.

“My wife and my mom took me down to Sutter Hospital in Santa Rosa. I couldn’t drive. I couldn’t do anything. I’d lost my sense of taste, couldn’t smell. I was out.”

The patient was first parked in the covid tent in the Sutter parking lot before he was moved inside. 

“I was dead. I’ve been beat up and hurt a bunch, but nothing like this. I thought I was dying.”

Puzzled doctors — “seven of them,” the patient remembers — argued over their stricken patient until Dr. Sidney, a specialist in tick-borne disease, said he was sure Kephart was a victim of Q-Fever.

Dr. Sidney was right. It was tick-borne and it was Q-Fever. 

Back in Boonville, Dr. Mark Apfel, Anderson Valley’s medical man for almost five decades, said Kephart’s Q-Fever was the first he’d seen.

Q-Fever is here, and it isn’t covid, although its symptoms are similar. There have been two confirmed cases in the Anderson Valley, including Kephart’s, and one suspected case. Q-Fever is tick-borne but comes from infected farm animals, especially sheep and goats, and their dung. The ticks jump from farm animals to household dogs and cats and from them to humans. In people, it appears as either chronic or acute. Chronic cases can linger for years without the patient knowing it. Acute is what happened to Kephart, who is still not fully recovered two months later.

“My biggest concern,” the valley’s pioneer Q-Fever survivor insists, “is for the rest of us. If this thing is here, and it is, people should know about it.”

From the CDC:

Q fever is a disease caused by the bacteria Coxiella burnetii. This bacteria naturally infects some animals, such as goats, sheep, and cattle. C. burnetii bacteria are found in the birth products (i.e. placenta, amniotic fluid), urine, feces, and milk of infected animals. People can get infected by breathing in dust that has been contaminated by infected animal feces, urine, milk, and birth products. Some people never get sick; however, those who do usually develop flu-like symptoms including fever, chills, fatigue, and muscle pain.

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