Q fever is an infection caused by a type of bacteria, which usually spreads to people from animals or their infected surroundings. Vaccination is advised for people at high risk such as those who work with animals.
At Top Health Doctors, we have doctors that have received further training to perform assessment, testing, vaccination and treatment of Q fever.
What is Q fever?
Q fever is an infection. For most people, it’s a mild infection like the flu and can be treated easily.
But for a few people, it can lead to serious health issues such as lung infection (pneumonia) and inflammation of liver (hepatitis).
A few people develop chronic Q fever, which can resurface months or years later and can cause serious problems such as damage to the heart and other organs.
What causes Q fever?
Q fever is caused by the bacteria Coxiella burnetii, which is mostly found in farm animals such as cattle, sheep and goats. But it may also be found in other animals such as:
Animals with Q fever don’t usually look sick but they can spread the bacteria to people.
How is Q fever passed onto humans?
Anyone who works with animals, such as meat workers, shearers, farmers and vets, has a higher than normal risk of getting infected. People usually get Q fever from breathing in infected air particles carrying dried up animal matter such as:
- faeces (poo)
Clothing, wool, hides and straw can also carry the bacteria. Infection rarely spreads from person to person. Drinking unpasteurised (unsterilised) milk may also be a risk – pasteurisation is a process that kills bacteria.
Who is most at risk?
People who work with animals and animal products and waste are at risk of being infected with Q fever, especially new workers and visitors to animal-related industries.
Typical at-risk workers include:
- abattoir workers, contractors and visitors to abattoirs
- cattle, sheep and goat farmers and graziers
- dairy industry workers and those who work with raw milk
- shearers and wool classers
- tannery workers
- kangaroo shooters
- wild game and camel meat processing workers
- transporters of livestock, animal products and waste
- feedlot workers
- staff and students of agricultural education programs
- rendering plant workers
- pet food manufacturing workers
- wildlife and zoo workers and animal exhibitors
- laboratory workers handling veterinary specimens or working with Q fever bacteria
- workers in animal research facilities
- workers processing animal foetal products for the cosmetics industry
- veterinarians and veterinary nurses
- professional dog and cat breeders
- laundry workers who handle clothing from at risk workplaces
- gardeners mowing in at-risk environments
- other people exposed to cattle, sheep, goats, camels, native wildlife, and animal products and waste.
Q fever diagnosis
We can do the relevant clinical assessment and blood test to confirm the diagnosis.
Q fever symptoms
Only about half of the people with Q fever have symptoms. These usually start within 2 to 3 weeks of getting infected. The symptoms are like having the flu such as:
- high fevers (up to 41°C) with chills or sweats
- bad headaches
- general feeling of being unwell
- muscle aches
- dry cough
- nausea or vomiting
- abdominal pain
- chest pain
Long lasting fatigue can follow infection with Q fever.
It can also cause serious problems for pregnant women.
Q fever treatment
Q fever is commonly treated with antibiotics and people with mild infections recover quickly. If you have chronic Q fever, you may need to take antibiotics for up to 18 months.
Q fever prevention
If you are at high risk of getting infected, and you are over 15 years, you can be given a Q fever vaccine to prevent infection. Do not drink unpasteurised milk, as this may cause infection.
If you’re concerned that you’re at risk or if you have Q fever symptoms, see us at Top Health Doctors.
Pre- vaccination Assessment and Vaccination
We do a pre- testing counselling, skin prick test and Q Fever serology test in your first visit.
Only when both skin prick test and Q fever serology test confirmed that there was no prior exposure, then we proceed to Q fever vaccination in your second visit, usually 1 week later.
Please note the consultation, assessment and vaccination related to pre-employment is NOT Medicare rebatable.
If it is related to employment, it is ususally tax deductible (please check with your accountant or company).
Call us now to find out more, if you think you at risk of getting Q fever, for an assessment and Q fever vaccination.
Learn more about Q fever, by clicking the link here.
Please see our Disclaimer in the FAQ page.