Are you Q Fever aware?

October 22, 2018 9:20 am

Angus Australia would like to remind its members to consider their health when working with animals, with the potential risk of Q Fever evident in Australia.  There are around 600 cases of Q fever each year in Australia, primarily in New South Wales and Queensland, with those exposed to animals often a large amount of the reported cases.  Q fever is a treatable and preventable disease, with vaccinations available to avoid the infection.

Q Fever is an infection that is caused by a type of bacteria called Coxiella burnetii.  The infection is primarily related to human contact directly or indirectly with animals such as cattle, sheep, goats and pigs.  The infection can also be found in a wider array of animals including cats, dogs and kangaroos.

The bacteria can be found in urine, milk, faeces, placenta and other birthing fluids of the infected animals, and humans can become infected through the air carrying dust that has been contaminated from the animal by products.  Clothing, wool, hides and straw can also be contaminated and a source of infection.

There are several symptoms and signs that one can look for.  Approximately only half of those infected show signs of the illness, however the onset of the symptoms can come on quite suddenly.

Those infected with the Coxiella burnetii bacteria may experience some of the following signs.

  • Fever (which may last up to 4 weeks)
  • chills
  • headaches
  • sweating
  • muscle aches
  • general fatigue (feeling tired)
  • body weakness
  • nausea/vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • chest pain
  • abdominal pain

If untreated Q fever can also cause long-term health complications including:

  • pneumonia (up to half of cases will develop pneumonia)
  • hepatitis
  • endocarditis (a heart valve infection)

Those with underlying heart abnormalities, are transplant recipients, cancer patients or have chronic kidney disease are also at risk of chronic Q fever.  Chronic Q fever develops after exposure, with the infection persisting after six months and may not be apparent until years after the initial infection.

Typically, those infected and are prompt in their diagnosis are easily treated with an effective treatment including antibiotics with positive results expected.

Using personal protective equipment (P2 Dust mask, gloves, waterproof overalls) can assists in minimising the risk of exposure to infected materials or particles.

Immunisation against Q fever is recommended by health professionals for anyone working extensively with animals.  Speak to your GP about immunisation in order to ensure you are protected against Q fever.

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