SummaryRead the full fact sheet
- People who work with cattle, sheep, goats or their products are at risk of Q fever.
- There is an effective vaccine.
- You must be tested before you can receive the vaccine.
About Q fever
Q fever is caused by a micro-organism that is mainly carried by cattle, sheep and goats. It can also be carried by kangaroos, camels, rodents, cats, dogs, birds and wallabies. The bacteria can survive many disinfectants and harsh conditions. It may remain in the environment for long periods of time, which means that dust, hay and other small particles may also carry the bacteria.
Q fever has flu-like symptoms
People with Q fever typically suffer:
The illness occasionally causes long-term complications such as heart disease.
It is passed on to humans in different ways
Q fever is passed on to humans through:
- contact with animal faeces, urine or birth products
- breathing in dust from infected premises
- contact with contaminated wool or hides, or presence during slaughtering
- Consumption of unpasteurised ‘raw’ milk
- Q fever is not normally transmitted person-to-person.
Risk factors for Q fever
People who work with cattle, sheep and goats are most at risk of catching Q fever. They include:
- farmers, hobby farmers and shooters
- abattoir workers, including visitors and tradesmen
- meat inspectors
- wool sorters
- veterinarians and animal handlers
- animal transporters
- people who handle linen soiled by animal products.
Vaccine for Q fever
There is a vaccine called Q-Vax, which gives a high level of protection against Q fever. It is recommended that be immunised before starting work. This vaccine is not suitable for children under 15 years of age or pregnant women.
Employers at workplaces where there is a high risk of Q fever should arrange for everyone to be immunised with Q-Vax. This will give a high level of protection against Q fever infection.
People must be tested to make sure they are not already immune to Q fever before they are vaccinated with Q-Vax, otherwise, they can have a severe reaction to the vaccine.
Testing involves a skin test and a blood test. Results of the skin test are ready seven days later. If both tests are negative, and the person is not allergic to eggs and has not already been vaccinated, they can then be vaccinated with Q-Vax.