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Q fever cases on the rise in the Braidwood district – consider your risk and vaccination

Over the past few weeks there have been a number of human cases of Q fever reported across the district. In response, exposure testing will be available at the Wilson Street Surgery with the view to vaccinate those who are both unexposed and at increased risk of the disease.

Q fever is a bacterial illness that spreads from infected animals to people.  Acute infection typically causes a severe flu-like illness with signs including high fevers and chills, severe sweats, severe headaches, muscle and joint pains, and extreme tiredness. It can be associated with inflammation of the liver and pneumonia. It can sometimes lead to a chronic illness resulting in inflammation of the heart or liver. Some people develop chronic fatigue after have Q fever, which can last for many years after initial infection.

People usually become infected by breathing in infected aerosols or dust when working with infected animals, animal tissues, or animal products. The main sources of the disease are cattle, sheep and goats.  Other animals such as kangaroos, bandicoots, and domestic dogs and cats can also be infected. Infected animals often show no signs of disease and can shed the bacteria into their urine, faeces, milk, and foetal fluids with high concentrations being found in the placenta.

Common activities where people are exposed include assisted calving, lambing, and kidding, as well as shearing. The disease can also be contracted through ingestion of unpasteurised milk from an infected animal. Contaminated work clothing, hides, straw, wool, and environmental dust can also be sources of infection.

Certain groups of people are at increased risk of Q fever including farmers and shearers, stockyard workers and animal transporters, abattoir and meat workers, and agriculture college staff and students. In 2015, 85 per cent of investigated cases of Q fever in NSW reported exposure to animals or animal products and 63 per cent of cases worked in high-risk occupations.

Personal hygiene is important in reducing the risk of Q fever to yourself and your family, as well as other diseases of animals that can spread to people. It is important to:

  • wash hands and arms thoroughly with soap and water after any contact with animals
  • wash animal urine, faeces, blood, and other body fluids from work sites and equipment and disinfect when able
  • minimise dust in animal housing areas
  • keep handling yards well away from living areas
  • remove work clothes that could be contaminated with bacteria before returning home.

Wilson Street Surgery will hold Q fever screening clinics on 15, 22 and 29 November from 8.00 to 11.00 am. People must be tested for previous exposure to Q fever before they can be vaccinated. Anyone who tests negative for previous exposure to Q fever will have the option of being vaccinated against the disease. The testing will be bulk billed. The cost of vaccination is $126 plus GST.

Local Land Services district veterinarians are a link between human health practitioners, private veterinarians, livestock owners, and people who work in the agricultural industry. They are keen to improve awareness of diseases that can transmit from animals to people so that those at risk can best protect themselves.  For more information please contact your nearest Local Land Services office on 1300 795 299.