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Q Fever

Are you and your family at risk of Q fever infection?

02 Sep 2020


NSW Health is warning people to get vaccinated and to take other steps to prevent Q fever.

Q fever is a serious illness which often appears like a severe flu, with high fevers and chills, sweating, severe headaches, muscle and joint pains and extreme fatigue. Chronic lethargy can remain for months after treatment. In severe cases, Q fever can cause hepatitis or pneumonia. 

Q fever is a bacterial infection which is carried by cattle, sheep and goats, as well as native and some domesticated animals. It is caused by inhaling dust particles contaminated by infected animal secretions.

People who are in direct contact with farm animals, some domestic pets and wildlife are at risk of contracting Q fever. This particularly includes workers in occupations such as livestock and dairy farmers, farm workers, shearers, wool classers, stockyard workers and veterinary staff. Family members of workers are also at risk as the bacteria can be carried on farm tools or work clothes and brought into the family home.

People who live close to farming areas may be at risk of infection through indirect contact with infected animals, such as by breathing in contaminated dust.

Vaccination is the best protection against Q fever

The Q fever vaccine (Q-VAX®) is the best way to prevent infection. Vaccination is highly recommended for people who work or intend to work in high-risk occupations. Vaccination is also recommended for everyone aged 15 years and over who has the potential to be exposed to Q fever at home or locations they plan to visit.

People should also take the following steps to protect against Q fever:

  • washing hands and arms thoroughly in soapy water after any contact with animals
  • wearing a properly fitting P2 mask when handling or disposing of animal products or when mowing or gardening in areas with livestock or native animal droppings
  • wearing protective clothing and thick gloves when working with high-risk animals or animal products
  • removing and washing dirty clothing, coveralls, boots and equipment in outdoor wash areas to prevent exposing other household residents
  • washing animal urine, faeces, blood and other body fluids from equipment and surfaces and properly disposing of animal tissues including birth by-products.

For more information on Q fever, ask your GP or go to the NSW Health website