Coxiella burnetii fulfills all requirements for biological weapon:
- it consistently causes disability,
- it can be manufactured on a large scale,
- it remains stable under production, storage and transportation conditions,
- it can be efficiently disseminated via aerosol,
- it remains viable for years after dissemination.
The microbe is deemed a category B biological terrorist agent, since, although it has potential for large-scale dissemination, its lacks capacity for the massive fatalities potentially caused by category A agents (small pox, anthrax, plague, botulism, tularemia and viral haemorrhagic fevers).
Some studies have indicated C.burnetii might be more suitable for use as the biological weapon than the category A agents:
- because of its widespread availability,
- natural potential for aerosolised use,
- environmental stability,
- and the possibility of producing large quantities of infectious material.
If used against troops, loss of manpower can range from 23 to 77%.
If used as a biological weapon in a civilian population, the degree of infectivity may rival that of anthrax, and althought associated mortality will be low, Q fever can cause extensive acute and chronic morbidity.