Dr Vicky Sheppeard, Director
Communicable Diseases NSW Health, said people can be infected if they inhale
dust containing dried animal secretions, which can be spread by winds.
“Q fever is a
bacterial infection carried by cattle, goats, sheep and other domesticated and
wild animals, so people who work on the land are most at risk,” Dr Sheppeard
“In these current dry, windy
conditions, we’re reminding people, particularly parents, to take steps to
protect themselves and their children if they are out with mum and dad helping
to feed stock.
“It is important people wear
personal protective equipment, such as a properly fitting face mask which can
be purchased from hardwares or pharmacies, and that they thoroughly wash their
symptoms often appear like a very severe flu, and include high fevers and
chills, severe sweats, severe headaches, muscle and joint pains and extreme
fatigue. Chronic lethargy can remain for months afterwards.
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 vaccine
is not recommended for those aged under 15 at this stage, so it is very
important parents make their children wear protective clothing and equipment.
“For those over
15, skin and blood tests are required before vaccination to make sure there is
no previous exposure to Q fever bacteria.”
The number of annual cases in NSW
has ranged from 181 to 263 in the last five years, with the highest number in
2015, which was another dry year. Q fever cases mostly occur in the north and
west regions, affecting men aged 40 years and over.
The NSW Government has invested
$475,000 to help protect farmers and other people in rural areas who work with
animals. This includes $275,000 for a Q fever education campaign and $200,000 for research into an
improved vaccine for the bacterial infection.
NSW Health has partnered with the
NSW Farmers’ Association and Country Women’s Association to raise awareness of
Q fever. NSW Health has created a GP education module through the Australian
College of Rural and Remote Medicine to help GPs recognise and prevent Q fever.
More than 318 GPs have already enrolled in this module, and NSW Health has
subsidised it so that all NSW GPs can access it for free.
In addition to vaccination, the
following steps can protect against Q fever:
- Washing hands and arms thoroughly in soapy water
after any contact with animals
- Wearing a properly fitting mask (ideally, a
respirator available from hardware stores or pharmacies) when handling or disposing of animal
products or when mowing or gardening
in areas with livestock or native animals
- Covering wounds with waterproof dressings and
wearing thick gloves when handling or
disposing of animal products
- Wearing dedicated protective clothing such as
coveralls when working with high risk animals, animal tissues or animal products
- Removing and washing
dirty clothing, coveralls, boots and equipment
in outdoor wash areas
to prevent exposing to other household residents
- Washing animal urine, faeces, blood and other
body fluids from equipment and surfaces and properly dispose of animal tissues
including birth by-products.