Dr Deb - The Travel Doctor

Risk Factors & Symptoms

Q Fever vaccination is important for anyone who may participate in risk activities with animals including:

  • Contact with cattle, sheep or native animals
  • Working in or visiting abottoirs, meat packing plants or tanneries
  • Regular visits to rural areas, particularly in dusty conditions
  • Maintaining livestock transport equipment that travel in these areas
  • Working with animal specimens in classrooms

Subjects who are working, should be vaccinated BEFORE they start work as the risk of infection is highest in the first few years. Persons who have already had Q fever cannot be vaccinated as they develop severe complications to the vaccine (local abscesses and even Q fever symptoms).

The Q Fever bacteria is particularly hardy and infectous – a single bacteria is able to cause an infection.

Q Fever Symptoms

Acute Q Fever develops after an incubation period of about 3 weeks. The symptoms are:

  • Fever, usually of abrupt onset and lasting for 5-50 (or more) days
  • Chills, lasting 3-4 days
  • Profuse sweats
  • Severe headache which usually lasts with the fever
  • Muscle and joint aches and pains
  • Profound fatigue and tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Eyes become sensitive to light
  • Loss of weight

As these symptoms occur with other diseases (eg; influenza), Q fever is often misdiagnosed. Some persons DO NOT develop symptoms and infection is only discovered when they are tested incidentally.

An uncomplicated infection lasts 2-6 weeks. If complications develop, people may be ill for up to 6 months. Some persons develop a persistent low grade infection which causes headache, joint and muscle pain, tiredness and sweating attacks for up to 5 years. Some also develop an infection in the heart muscle which may not become obvious for 5 years. After the primary attack, it is very rare for individuals to experience a second serologically confirmed attack.