What is Q Fever and are you at risk?

About Q Fever

Q fever is an illness caused by a bacterium called Coxiella burnetti which can be caught by humans via direct or indirect contact with infected animals or animal products. Cattle, sheep and goats are the main sources of infection; however, a wide range of domestic and wild animals can spread the infection to humans. Infected animals usually do not appear to be sick.

The illness in humans is usually mild, but may sometimes be severe with long lasting consequences. Our Eurobodalla region was declared a high risk area – mainly due to extreme dry conditions throughout the region.

Are you at risk?

You are at increased risk of contracting Q fever when in indirect contact or in proximity to infected animals, their products (such as faeces, urine, milk, wool & especially products of conception) and contaminated material (such as dust, aerosols, soil, grass, straw, clothes).

You can be infected with Q fever by drinking unpasteurised milk from infected cows, sheep and goats and by breathing in bacteria in the air or dust – 

  • while birthing, slaughtering or butchering infected animals (especially cattle, sheep or goats). These activities carry a very high risk of infection.
  • when handling infected animals, infected animal tissues, fluids or excretions or animal products or materials that have been infected including wool, hides, straw, manure fertiliser and clothes (e.g. washing clothes worn when birthing, butchering or slaughtering animals)
  • while herding, shearing or transporting animals
  • while mowing grass contaminated by infected animal excretions
  • when visiting, living or working in/near a high-risk industry
  • direct contact with infected animal tissue or fluids on broken skin (e.g. cuts or needle stick injuries when working with infected animals)

A vaccination is available

If your work puts you in contact with high-risk animals or animal products you have a high risk of  Q fever infection. The vaccine is strongly recommended for people aged 15 years and over who work in high-risk occupations.

You may also be infected outside of work especially in regional and rural areas by breathing in infected particles and dust in the environment. Vaccination is also recommended for anyone aged 15 years and over who may come into contact with Q fever bacteria during activities outside of work or in the areas in which they live, work or visit.

QSMC offers at risk patients the Q Fever vaccination – we supply the vaccine at $150 plus the skin test at $50 – or $20 if three or more people (e.g. vet staff) are having the test and vaccination on the same day. If you feel you are at risk or have questions please seek advice from your doctor.

For more info

For more good info see these fact sheets on Q feverQ fever and farmsQ fever and veterinary staff.