regional and rural NSW are being warned to get vaccinated and take other steps
to guard against Q fever, as drought and high winds may increase the risk of
the disease spreading.
Dr Vicky Sheppeard, NSW Health Director Communicable Diseases, said Q
fever is a serious bacterial infection caused by inhaling dust particles
contaminated by infected animal secretions, that does not just affect farmers or people who
deal with livestock.
“The infection is carried by cattle, goats, sheep and other domesticated
and wild animals, so people who work on the land are most at risk,” Dr
“However, the bacteria can easily be carried on farm tools or work
clothes and brought into the family home.”
So far this year, there have been 141 confirmed cases of Q fever notified
to NSW Health, with an increase in the number of cases in the Western, Southern
and Hunter New England regions. In 2018, there were 224 confirmed cases of Q
fever throughout the state.
“This reflects the increase seen across Australia over the past several
years and the emergence of the disease in groups who do not regularly work on
farms or abattoirs, such as Aboriginal people, itinerant workers and
Q fever symptoms often appear like severe flu, with high fevers and
chills, sweating, severe headaches, muscle and joint pains and extreme fatigue.
Chronic lethargy can remain for months after treatment.
Dr Sheppeard said a single dose vaccine is recommended for people who
work in high risk occupations and anyone over 15 years who has the potential to
be exposed to Q fever.
“Q fever occasionally affects children, and as the vaccine is not
recommended for those aged under 15, it is very important parents know how to
protect children from Q fever,” she said.
The following steps can protect against Q fever:
hands and arms thoroughly in soapy water after any contact with animals
- wearing a properly fitting mask when handling or disposing of
animal products or when mowing or gardening in areas with
livestock or native animal droppings
protective clothing and thick gloves when working with high risk animals or
- removing and washing dirty clothing, coveralls, boots and equipment in outdoor wash areas
to prevent exposing other household residents
animal urine, faeces, blood and other body fluids from equipment and surfaces
and properly disposing of animal tissues including birth by-products.
The NSW Government is investing around $1
million to help protect farmers and other people in rural areas who work with
animals from Q fever.
The NSW Government is working with the NSW Farmers’ Association, the NSW Country
Women’s Association, SafeWork NSW, and other primary industry stakeholders to
develop and disseminate the Q fever education campaign.
In 2018 NSW Health launched
an online learning module to help GPs diagnose Q fever and vaccinate
susceptible people. In the first 12 months over 400 GPs enrolled in the course.
information on Q fever, go to the NSW Health website.