Update on Q fever in Australia

With several hundred cases diagnosed each year, Australia has one of the highest rates of Q fever worldwide.

Q fever is a bacterial infection which spreads from animals; mainly cattle, sheep and goats. It can present in different ways, but often causes severe flu-like symptoms.

Importantly, the bacteria that cause Q fever favour dry, dusty conditions, and inhalation of contaminated dust is a common route of infection.

There are now fears the ongoing droughts in Queensland and New South Wales may be increasing risk of the disease spreading.

But there are measures those at risk can take to protect themselves, including vaccination.

What is Q fever and who is at risk?

Q fever is an infectious illness caused by the bacterium Coxiella burnetii, one of the most infectious organisms around.

Q fever is zoonotic, meaning it can transmit to people from infected animals. It’s usually acquired through either direct animal contact or contact with contaminated areas where animals have been.

Goats, sheep and cattle are the most commonly reported Q fever hosts, although a range of other animals may be carriers.

Because of this association with livestock, farmers, abattoir workers, shearers, and veterinarians are thought to be at the highest risk of Q fever.

People who also may be at risk include family members of livestock workers, people living or working near livestock transport routes, tannery workers, animal hunters, and even processors in cosmetics factories that use animal products.

Q fever can be difficult to diagnose (it has sometimes been called “the quiet curse”). Infected people usually develop flu-like fevers, severe headaches and ...

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