With warmer months on the way it is timely for members in certain jobs to be aware of Q Fever which is more prevalent from September to April, with more cases being reported later in the season. Given the disease can be spread by dust, it is possible the drought may lead to an increase in reported cases. There is a vaccine available.
What is “Q Fever”?
Q Fever (or Query Fever) is an animal borne bacterial infection that can be spread by inhaling air or dust that contains bacterial spores. It can also be spread by contact with fluids from infected animals.
It produces flu-like symptoms, including headaches and joint pain, usually around 14-21 days after exposure. This can be followed by possible nausea and diarrhoea.
Q Fever is treatable with antibiotics. However, other effects such as lethargy can be remain for several months afterwards.
If left untreated, Q Fever can cause other infections such as pneumonia and can be potentially fatal.
Who is at Risk?
Rangers and Animal Welfare Officers in higher risk areas may be exposed through handling of infected animals, during the conduct of their duties. In 2018, there were 224 reported cases of Q Fever in the state of New South Wales, spread across the Western, Southern, Hunter and New England regions.
The disease tends to be most prevalent during the warmer months, from September to April, with more cases being reported later in the season. Given the disease can be spread by dust, it is possible the drought may lead to an increase in reported cases.
Is there a Vaccine?
Q Vax is produced locally by CSL and, according to NSW Health, offers good long-term immunity.
What to do if there is a possible risk?
Q Fever is a reportable disease and Doctors are required to notify the NSW Health when patients are identified as infected. It is potentially an occupational hazard for people required to handle animals in areas considered at risk.
Councils in at risk areas should conduct risk assessments for employees who face potential exposure and vaccinations should be provided for at-risk employees by Local Councils, consistent with the requirements of the Workplace Health and Safety Act 2011 to provide a safe workplace.
Further information about Q Fever is available from NSW Health and can be accessed from their website: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Pages/Q-Fever.aspx