ADVICE: At particular risk of contracting Q fever include abattoir and meat workers, livestock and dairy farmers, shearers and wool classers, stockyard and feedlot workers, animal transporters, taxidermists, veterinarians and vet nurses, wildlife workers, agriculture college staff and students, laboratory workers, hunters, plus dog and cat breeders.
ADVICE: At particular risk of contracting Q fever include abattoir and meat workers, livestock and dairy farmers, shearers and wool classers, stockyard and feedlot workers, animal transporters, taxidermists, veterinarians and vet nurses, wildlife workers, agriculture college staff and students, laboratory workers, hunters, plus dog and cat breeders. ALI KUCHEL

Health district keeps track of local Q fever cases

NORTHERN NSW Local Health District has had four confirmed cases reported of Q fever this year so far.

There have been also 27 cases of Q fever reported in 2018 in our area, similar to the five-year average of 35 cases.

Research from the University of Sydney published this week found that rural populations are at increased risk of catching the highly infectious bacterial infection Q fever, even those who were not regularly exposed to livestock.

Paul Corben, Director North Coast Public Health Unit, said Q fever was a highly infectious disease that spreads to people via infected livestock, domestic pets and native wildlife, including kangaroos.

Mr Corben said there were 224 confirmed cases of Q fever notified in NSW In 2018, slighter higher than the five-year annual average of 212 cases.

So far in 2019, there have been 32 reported cases state-wide.

Mr Corden said people infected with Q fever can develop a flu-like illness, including "drenching" sweats, about two-to-three weeks after becoming infected. However, about half of all cases have no or few symptoms.

"While most cases are found in men over 40 years of age, anyone can acquire the infection," he explained.

"Those at particular risk include: abattoir and meat workers; livestock and dairy farmers; shearers and wool classers; stockyard and feedlot workers; animal transporters; taxidermists; veterinarians and vet nurses; wildlife workers; agriculture college staff and students; laboratory workers; hunters; and dog and cat breeders.

"Most people are exposed to Q fever when birthing or slaughtering infected animals, or while handling contaminated animal products such as wool or hides.

Mr Corben said vaccination is the most effective way to prevent Q fever and is highly recommended for people living or working on the land, as well as anyone aged over 15 who may come into contact with Q fever in places where they live, work or visit.

"It's also important families take extra precautions against Q fever as children aged under 15 cannot be vaccinated against the disease," he said.

NSW Health has a Q-fever online learning course, hosted by the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine, to help GPs recognise the symptoms, diagnose Q fever and vaccinate where appropriate. For more information on Q fever visit health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Pages/q-fever.aspx