Q fever is a bacterial infection that spreads to people from animals, commonly causing a flu-like illness that can be severe. In some people it can cause ongoing and potentially serious health issues such as chronic Q fever, post Q fever fatigue syndrome and pregnancy complications.
People most commonly become infected with Q fever from contact with cattle, sheep and goats but other animals, including some domestic, native and feral animals can also spread infection to people.
The bacteria are found in the urine, faeces, milk and birth products of infected animals and are very hardy, surviving for a long time in the environment. People usually become infected by breathing in infectious dust and aerosols.
Q fever can spread to people from native wildlife, including kangaroos, wallabies and bandicoots. Workers at risk of Q fever from native wildlife include:
- game meat and pet food processing workers
- workers who process kangaroo hides and skins
- veterinarians and veterinary nurses
- park rangers
- wildlife workers including carers, conservationists, ecologists and fauna spotter catchers
- zoo workers
- wildlife shooters and hunters
- workers who handle and dispose of wildlife carcasses
- workers who regularly mow in areas inhabited by native wildlife especially kangaroos, including groundskeepers, council workers, golf course workers, horticulturalists and gardeners.
Vaccination is the best way to protect workers against Q fever. Vaccination is recommended for workers who are at risk of Q fever and who have not previously been infected. Workplaces where workers are exposed to Q fever risks should have a vaccination program to protect their workers. The Q Fever Register provides a list of doctors who provide Q fever screening and vaccination.
A properly-fitted (PDF, 0.86 MB) particulate respirator, such as a disposable P2 respirator, may be used as a short-term control measure; however, it should not be considered a substitute for Q fever vaccination.
It's important that if you become sick and need to see a doctor that you tell the doctor about your contact with native wildlife. Early diagnosis and treatment of Q fever can get you better sooner and reduce your risk of long term complications.