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Q Fever

Q Fever

Experts are urging residents to get vaccinated.

The Murrumbidgee Local Health District is warning people to get vaccinated and take other steps to guard against Q fever, with drought and high winds potentially increasing the risk of the disease spreading.

In 2018, there were 15 confirmed cases of the disease in the MLHD area. This year has already seen three in the region.

Director of Public Health Tracey Oakman said while this is not an alarming number, those working around livestock should not be complacent.

"It is a serious bacterial infection," she said.

"It's not just a risk to farmers and people who deal with livestock, but it is mostly high-risk for them."

Ms Oakman said vets, shearers, and families of those working on properties can also be at risk.

"Q fever is a serious bacterial infection caused by inhaling dust particles contaminated by infected animal secretions," she said.

"The infection is carried by cattle, goats, sheep and other domesticated and wild animals, so people who work on the land are most at risk."

"However, the bacteria can easily be carried on farm tools or work clothes and brought into the family home."

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There has been an increase in Q fever across NSW over the past several years and the emergence of the disease in groups who do not regularly work on farms or abattoirs.

"It's probably linked to the drought, and the windy and dusty conditions," Ms Oakman said.

"Q fever is an organism that will stay in the dirt and when there's drought and wind blowing that around, people who are in areas where Q fever is are at increased risk.

Q fever symptoms often appear like severe flu, with high fevers and chills, sweating, severe headaches, muscle and joint pains and extreme fatigue. Chronic lethargy can remain for months after treatment.

Ms Oakman said a single dose vaccine is recommended for people who work in high risk occupations and anyone over 15 years who has the potential to be exposed to Q fever.

"Q fever occasionally affects children, and as the vaccine is not recommended for those aged under 15, it is very important parents know how to protect children from Q fever," said Ms Oakman.

The following steps can protect against Q fever:

- washing hands and arms thoroughly in soapy water after any contact with animals;
- wearing a properly fitting mask when handling or disposing of animal products or when mowing or gardening in areas with livestock or native animal droppings;
- wearing protective clothing and thick gloves when working with high risk animals or animal products;
- removing and washing dirty clothing, coveralls, boots and equipment in outdoor wash areas to prevent exposing other household residents; and
- washing animal urine, faeces, blood and other body fluids from equipment and surfaces and properly disposing of animal tissues including birth by-products.

The NSW Government is investing around $1 million to help protect farmers and other people in rural areas who work with animals from Q fever.

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