Dr Deb - The Travel Doctor

About Q Fever

Q Fever was first recognised in Australia during the 1930’s when workers at a Brisbane meat processor became ill with a fever. As the cause of the illness was unknown, the workers were diagnosed with ‘Query’ fever. This was eventually abbreviated to Q Fever.

This website aims to give some basic information about the vaccine and who needs to be vaccinated, as well as some links to more detailed information.

Infected cows lead to humans getting Q fever

How Do You Catch Q Fever?

Q Fever can be acquired from the air. People catch it from animals. Domestic and wild animals can be infected, without any apparent signs of infection. The germ called Coxiella Burnetti. Q Fever occurs almost everywhere in the world. In Australia, cattle, sheep and goats are the main reservoir, although bandicoots, kangaroos and dogs can be infected. In Canada, Q Fever has occurred from exposure to cats and rabbits. Man can be infected with the germ (Coxiella Burnetti) following contact with infected animals or products from these animals, urine, faeces or milk birth products.

The Q Fever germ is very tough and can survive in dust formed from contaminated animal products. Infected dust may settle on the ground, or on wool, hides, clothing, straw etc, and then be disturbed by movement or wind. Infection may also be acquired from drinking unpasteurised milk.

How Important Is Q Fever?

In 1997 it was estimated that 1700 weeks of work were lost each year in Australia.

The risk of contracting Q Fever among Australian meat workers has been estimated at one in 300 unvaccinated workers per year. Claims made to the Australian meat industry as a result of Q Fever are at least A$1 million annually. Q Fever rarely attracts media attention and yet is among the most costly and severe infectious disease in Australia.

Every year, about 600 cases are reported in Australia, of which about 300 are in Queensland. The symptoms are often mistaken for severe influenza, while some cases develop no symptoms, so the real incidence of the disease is likely to be much greater. Unlike influenza, Q Fever can cause severe complications, e.g. extreme fatigue, or heart and liver damage.

The average cost of an uncomplicated case is $7000. Two to four weeks of sick leave would be expected. Up to 20% of cases are complicated, leading to long term complications and up to 6 months sick leave being taken. Complicated cases leading to litigation are common, and the cost of this litigation ranges from $300,000 to $1.24million.