There are some great things about living in rural and remote Australia, but Q Fever isn’t one of them.
Q Fever is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Coxiella Burnetii which is spread from animals to humans. The disease has a wide range of severity, which can have significant impacts on short- and long-term health.
The highest risk is from handling cattle, sheep, and goats. In particular handling birthing fluids, faeces, urine and waste products. However, the bacteria can be blown in the wind through contaminated dust, or caught from other animals such as rabbits, kangaroos or ticks.
It is thought that 6% of people living on farms and 3% of people living in rural areas will be exposed to Q Fever.
Classic acute Q Fever appears as a flu-like illness with high fever, headache, aches and pains, with lung and liver inflammation. In its severe form it can affect the heart or appear as meningitis.
Of those affected, five per cent go on to develop chronic infection which may result in damage to blood vessels, heart valves, liver, or bones. Ten percent develop Q Fever Fatigue Syndrome which can limit activity for months to years.
Prompt recognition, diagnosis and antibiotic treatment (generally doxycycline) can reduce the length of illness and the likelihood of complications.
Risk is reduced by good hand hygiene and personal protective equipment (including P2 masks). However, vaccination is the most effective way to prevent infection and is recommended for those who work in, live in or visit high risk environments.
Two appointments are required for vaccination. The first includes a brief medical consultation and assesses for prior exposure by skin-prick and blood test. The second appointment confirms results and, if appropriate, a single lifelong vaccination is administered.
Barton Lane Practice offers options for personal or occupational vaccinations. Discuss your risk with your GP or phone Barton Lane Practice for further information.