Gippsland Region Public Health Unit,

Q Fever awareness campaign for farm workers

The Gippsland Region Public Health Unit (GRPHU) is launching a campaign within the agricultural sector about the risk of Q Fever infection.

Q Fever is a disease that disproportionately affects people working in agriculture and is particularly prevalent in Gippsland.

The disease can be contracted in a number of ways including:

  • inhalation of dust particles contaminated by infected animals, mainly cattle, sheep and goats
  • handling infected animals
  • handling the wool or hide of an infected animal
  • coming in contact with materials that have been infected such as straw or clothing
  • contact with animal faeces, urine or birth products.

The GRPHU will be working with local agricultural stakeholders, GPs and the broader community to deepen knowledge of Q Fever and prevention measures including increasing testing and vaccination.

“While the numbers are small, this is a potentially serious condition with long term implications,” GRPHU senior epidemiologist, Katie Walker said.

“Gippsland is over-represented in the state’s Q Fever statistics with more than 25 per cent of cases detected despite being home to only four per cent of the state’s population. Most cases were identified in the Wellington Shire.”

The bacteria can be transported up to 18 kilometres under the influence of wind which can result in cases in people who have had no contact with animals.

Typically, October and November are the months that see the highest notifications. These months coincide with calving season in the dairy sector.

“Symptoms of infection include high fevers, chills, sweats, headaches, muscle aches, nausea, cough and weight loss,” GRPHU Public Health Physician, Dr Shereen Labib said.

“Longer term symptoms include fatigue and heart disease which for some patients can become a chronic condition lasting several months or even years.”

The awareness campaign will target local industry, dairy workers, veterinarians and GPs.

“With the region being so over-represented in terms of infections we aim to increase Q Fever awareness and use of prevention measures including use of personal protection measures and vaccination. Ultimately, we want to achieve a decrease in people infected with the disease,” Dr Shereen Labib said.

Find a local vaccine provider here.

Learn about Q Fever on the Victorian Government Better Health Channel here.

Download the GRPHU Fact Sheet (English) here and the GRHPU Fact Sheet about Q Fever vaccination (English) here.
Download the GRPHU Q Fever poster for use in shop windows and offices here.