This kit provides practical suggestions and resources for how you can raise awareness of Q fever in your community.
The purpose of this Q fever resource kit
To increase the rural community’s awareness and understanding of Q fever and its potential impact on individuals and families.
To provide useful educational resources and other practical tools for the rural community designed to help reduce the disease burden of Q fever in Australia.
The kit contains shareable images to help raise awareness of Q fever, including first-hand accounts from patients describing what it’s like to live through both acute and chronic stages of Q fever. The kit contains banner ads to promote these first-hand stories through community email campaigns and on social media.
Thank you for your interest in Q fever and for supporting your community with Q fever awareness and education.
This package includes relevant assets you may wish to use for educational purposes to help reduce the burden of Q fever in Australia.
In this video, Australian vet Dr. Bonny Cumming explores the connection between the environment, animals, and communities. Learn about the influence of environmental factors on Q fever and the importance of a holistic approach.
This short video features Dr. Bonny Cumming, an Australian vet with a special interest in diseases present in the environment and in animals. Dr. Cumming explores the vital connection between the environment, animals, and humans, emphasising how the Q fever bacteria spreads, and introduces the One Health concept.
Geoff, chronic Q fever and post Q fever fatigue syndrome sufferer
Geoff is a process control systems engineer who lives on a property at White Rock near Bathurst in NSW.
He was brought up on the land in rural NSW. His parents bred blue ribbon sheep and won awards for the quality of their wool, in fact, topping the wool price in the 1952/’53 season.
Geoff attended Farrer Memorial Agricultural College in Tamworth and went on to study electronics engineering. Despite not carrying on the family business of breeding sheep, his passion has always been farming. The lure of the land drew Geoff in, and having purchased a property near Bathurst, he decided he’d breed Boer goats to sell as meat to the ‘White Tablecloth’ end of the fine dining restaurant market.
It was in December 2007 when Geoff first realised he may have contracted Q fever.
On his property, does were experiencing problems giving birth and many kids were stillborn. One doe was in labour for 24 hours and Geoff knew that if he didn’t lend a hand, he’d lose both mother and baby.
“So on the vet’s advice, we went in after the kid… my wife at the front and me at the business end. Without going into the gruesome details, I pulled out the stillborn kid. Unknowingly our doe must have been infected with the bacteria that causes Q fever.”
“I didn’t know about it until three weeks later when I was in Tumbarumba on a contract engineering job. That’s when the fever first hit. Although it was summer, I’d spend two hours shivering like a Chihuahua in bed with the electric blanket on high and then have to turn the air con up to full just to cool down. The fever lasted a full 10 days and it presented itself in other ways too, with a red raw Achilles tendon that made it very painful to walk.”
“ I’d never even heard of Q fever, despite being brought up on a sheep farm. A colleague at work suggested I may indeed have Q fever – he’d experienced abattoir workers that had contracted it. So I had blood tests done and the diagnosis of Q fever was confirmed.”
Unfortunately, Geoff continued to have ongoing symptoms that were undiagnosed. In 2016, he was referred to a specialist and subsequently diagnosed with Chronic Q fever.
“Every summer, like clockwork, it comes back”, he said. “The fever is nowhere near as bad as it was back in 2007, but my Achilles still goes red raw and hurts incredibly and now the pain spreads to other joints – mainly my knees and elbows. When it hits, I’m just totally exhausted all the time, yet find it really hard to sleep. Medication helps, but nothing works for long.”
“It’s an insidious thing and I wouldn’t wish the suffering on anybody. Anyone working with animals needs to be made more aware of Q fever.”
To this day, Geoff can’t work a full week; 32 hours a week is his limit. He still works in engineering and is back breeding, but no longer goats.
“Amazingly, I’m back to sheep… breeding superfine merinos. Life has come full circle I guess. I can’t just sit around doing nothing… it’s part of my psyche that I have to be doing something and this is what I know.”
Jason, acute Q fever sufferer
Jason is a specialist refrigeration and air conditioning mechanic. He specialises in industrial size cool rooms and freezers that use ammonia as a refrigerant.
Jason and his family live in Cessnock, in the Hunter Valley region of NSW. Jason contracted Q fever in 2016 during a brief stint working at an abattoir in Victoria. It was his first job in the beef industry and he’d never heard of the illness.
He had been advised by his employer to get vaccinated when he first started the job, but chose not to, as he figured that he would never be in contact with the high-risk environments within the abattoir. After all, his workplace was a room in which he was surrounded by machinery – not animals.
“I’d never experienced anything like it”, said Jason. “It started with what seemed like typical ‘flu symptoms, but it quickly got much worse.”
“I’d be freezing cold for hours, then I’d get so hot I’d sweat profusely. This continued non-stop for two weeks and somehow I kept turning up for work each day.”
“I’d get home and just couldn’t move. I’d need three or four layers of clothing on and when I got into bed, I’d have up to four doonas over me just to try and stop the shivering. I knew it had to be more than a case of the flu.”
“I didn’t want to eat and lost something like 10kg in those two weeks. My body was just so sore. Every muscle was aching beyond anything I’d ever felt. It was like I’d done a dozen workouts at the gym, back to back to back. Except I couldn’t do a thing! One weekend, I was only out of bed for one hour over the entire two days. I was completely useless!”
Jason made a full recovery and hasn’t experienced any recurring symptoms since his initial episode of Q fever. Jason trains five days a week and considers himself “pretty fit”. He doesn’t work much in refrigeration any more, instead providing security at weddings and other functions in Cessnock and surrounding areas.
But he still looks back on those two weeks of suffering from an acute case of Q fever with a shudder.
Any medical practitioner can provide Q fever advice. The benefit of visiting your regular doctor is that they get to know your medical history, they build up an understanding of your health needs, current problems and whether a treatment is right for you.
Your doctor may discuss your risk of being infected with Q fever and suitable preventative options by asking questions about:
a. Your occupation
b. Where you work and live
c. Your previous and current health conditions
d. What preventative or control measures are currently in place against Q fever
Q fever can have serious and long-lasting consequences.
For more information on Q fever and ways to help protect against Q fever, make an appointment to speak to your doctor.
People at increased risk of contracting Q fever include those in direct contact or in close 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).
People working with cattle, sheep, goats and their products (main sources of infection). E.g. farmers, abattoir/meat workers, shepherds, animal transporters, stockyard workers, dairy farmers & producers, shearers & sorters, tanning/hide workers, vets & veterinary staff, agricultural staff.
People working with wildlife (e.g. kangaroos), feral or domestic animals (e.g. camels, cats and dogs) and their products. E.g. dog & cat breeders, wildlife & zoo workers, handlers, workers culling & processing kangaroos, vets & veterinary staff.
People who live, work or visit at-risk environments or areas in close proximity to them. E.g. farms, saleyards, livestock transport routes.
People working with Coxiella burnetii or laboratory animals. E.g. laboratory personnel handling veterinary specimens.
Further information is available from your doctor or state work health and safety guidelines if you work in an occupation considered to be at risk.
Chronic Q fever is a serious and long-lasting disease and occurs in up to 5% of acute Q fever patients.3 It results from persistent infection in one or more parts of the body. It may develop months or even years after the initial episode of Q fever, even in patients that did not have any symptoms to start with and may take years to resolve. A common manifestation of chronic Q fever infection is inflammation of the heart (endocarditis), which more commonly develops in people with certain heart problems. However, individuals may also suffer from persistent infections occurring in the liver, bones and other organs.
Some patients with acute Q fever (up to about 15%) will go on to experience a post-Q fever fatigue syndrome, where symptoms continue to persist for more than 12 months after symptoms first appear.1,2 Symptoms associated with post-Q fever fatigue syndrome (extreme tiredness and other symptoms), can last for years and have the potential to be highly incapacitating.
Q fever is mainly spread from animals to humans via inhalation of infected particles in the air.
Other routes of infection include:
direct contact with infected animals
contact with infected animal products such as birth products (placenta), milk, urine, faeces and hides.
contact with contaminated material such as soil, grass, straw and clothes.
Cattle, sheep and goats are the main sources of human infection, but certain native and feral mammals (e.g. kangaroos, bandicoots, rats, horses, camels), as well as domestic animals such as cats and dogs, may also be implicated.
Most infected animals do not show symptoms or get sick. They can shed the bacteria in their urine, faeces (poo), milk, wool and birth products which can subsequently contaminate surrounding material such as soil, dust, grass, straw, clothes, hair. The bacterium is highly infective and resistant, capable of withstanding harsh conditions for long periods of time.
Q fever is an infectious disease spread to humans by animals and caused by the bacterium Coxiella burnetii.
The bacterium is transmitted to humans by direct and indirect contact with infected animals, animal products or contaminated material. It is mainly spread from animals to humans via inhalation of infected particles in the air.
Coxiella burnetii can infect both wild and domestic animals, and their ticks. Cattle, sheep and goats are the main sources of human infection, but certain wildlife (e.g. kangaroos), feral and domestic animals (e.g. camels, cats and dogs), may also be implicated.
The illness in humans is usually flu-like, but may sometimes have serious and long-lasting consequences.
In Australia, any case of Q fever needs to be reported to health authorities.