Severe sweats; aching muscles and joints; flu-like symptoms and extreme fatigue – that’s what farmers can expect to experience if they contract the potentially deadly Q Fever.
Farmers and others who work with livestock are most at risk of contracting the illness.
The condition is a bacterial infection spread from animals – mainly cattle, sheep and goats. People are usually infected by breathing in the bacteria in the air or dust.
A person can come in contact with the disease while handling infected animals, mowing grass contaminated by infected animal excretions, or visiting, living or working in/near high-risk industries.
The effects of Q Fever can be debilitating for years. About 10 per cent of patients who are sick with Q Fever go on to suffer from a chronic-fatigue-like illness.
Despite the seriousness of the illness, awareness of Q Fever and how to prevent it remains low.
Last week, six prominent agricultural and rural organisations joined forces to raise awareness of Q Fever and its impacts on communities and workers.
The NSW Farmers’ Association, Australian Meat Industry Council, CWA of NSW, Cattle Council of Australia, Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association and the Australia Meat Processor Corporation to advocate for better access to Q Fever vaccinations have established a National Q Fever Taskforce.
NSW Farmers’ President James Jackson is a vocal advocate for Q Fever awareness following his own battle with the disease.
“Q Fever is a deadly disease, and it’s the last thing a farmer needs to be dealing with during an ongoing period of drought.
“We want to see governments of all levels coming together to address this crucial public health issue. NSW has led the way on funding awareness and new vaccine research – other states and the Federal Government need to step up to match this investment,” he said.
Australian Meat Industry Council, CEO Patrick Hutchinson noted that it was important the community understood that Q Fever was not an occupational disease and was not restricted to any individual industry.
“Q Fever is a community health issue that can affect every person, young or old.”
The Taskforce will ask the state and Federal Government to sign up to a National Partnership Agreement on Q Fever, which will clearly define state and federal responsibilities for managing the disease and provide a framework for government investment.
“A key objective of the taskforce is to highlight the scale of the disease and the need to raise its awareness across Australia to businesses, governments at all levels, the medical fraternity and, of course, the general community,” Mr Hutchinson said.
The Taskforce will also aim to have all tests and vaccine details contained on the National Immunisation Register, to ask the Federal Government reintroduce funding for the National Q Fever Management Program, and to secure funding for research for a new and improved vaccine.
More about Q Fever
People who become sick often have severe flu-like symptoms about 2-3 weeks after coming into contact with the bacteria.
Most people become immune to repeat infections but occasionally people develop chronic infections for up to two years and can cause a range of health issues including heart problems.
The best way to prevent Q Fever is a safe and effective vaccination – Q-Vax – for anyone over the age of 15 years and who has the potential to be exposed to the disease.