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Q fever. Serious. Preventable.

16 Apr 2018


People who work with animals or live near livestock are advised to get vaccinated against Q fever to avoid a potentially lengthy illness.

Q fever is a bacterial infection that can cause severe flu-like illness. The bacteria are spread mainly from cattle, sheep and goats as well as a range of domestic animals.

Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District Director of Public Health Associate Professor Bradley Forssman warns anyone who works with animals is at risk, including abattoir or meat workers, dairy farmers and farm workers.

“People can get infected with Q fever by breathing in the bacteria that is in the air or dust while birthing, slaughtering or butchering infected animals,” says Dr Forssman.

“Bacteria can also be breathed in when handling or transporting infected animals or mowing grass contaminated by infected animal excretions.”

People who become sick from Q fever often have severe flu-like illness which can last from 2 – 6 weeks without treatment. Illness often results in time off work, lasting from a few days to several weeks.

“For some people, Q fever can affect their health and ability to work for many years,” says Dr Forssman.

Vaccination is highly recommended for people who work in high-risk occupations. Vaccination is also recommended for everyone aged 15 years or older, working or living on a farm.

For people who can’t get vaccinated, there are simple precautions you can take to protect your health, including:

  • Wash hands and arms thoroughly in soapy water after any contact with animals.
  • Wear a properly fitted P2 mask and gloves when handling or disposing of animal products.
  • Wear a properly fitted P2 mask when mowing or gardening in areas where there are livestock or native animals.
  • Wash animal urine, faeces, blood or other body fluids from equipment and surfaces where possible. 

Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent infection and is strongly recommended for people who work, live in or visit high risk environments. Talk to your GP to see if vaccination is right for you.

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