Beaudesert GP urges at-risk residents to check Q fever vaccination status

VACCINE: Dr Michael Rice says flu symptoms could mean Q fever, spread by direct or indirect contact with animals. Photo: Larraine Sathicq

VACCINE: Dr Michael Rice says flu symptoms could mean Q fever, spread by direct or indirect contact with animals. Photo: Larraine Sathicq

BEAUDESERT GP Dr Michael Rice has warned that a negative result from a COVID test might not mean a clean bill of health for people who are at risk for Q fever.

Q fever is caused by bacteria found in cattle, goats, sheep and wildlife.

The disease was common in regional areas including the Scenic Rim before the promotion of a vaccine in the 90s.

"I have treated people with Q fever for many years.

"It's not as common since the vaccine became available but it still occurs in unvaccinated people who have contact with at-risk animals," he said.

Dr Rice said people who worked in the agricultural industry were often vaccinated at the behest of their employers but those who were self employed or at risk because of hobbies or recreational activities may not know to be vaccinated.

"The disease can affect hunters of feral animals and we have also seen outbreaks at animal shelters where litters of kittens and puppies are born.

"There is an emerging mode of transmission where we see cases of aerosol transmission in people after mowing lawns containing wallaby droppings."

Dr Rice said symptoms of Q fever could mimic those of respiratory infections including coronavirus.

"Symptoms can be so mild you don't even know you have it or so serious that you could be out of work for weeks or months," he said.

"Vaccination is not straightforward, it requires a skin test and blood test to be sure you haven't had Q fever.

"This is because reactions to the vaccine are more likely if you've been previously exposed."

Dr Rice said diagnosis was often difficult and involved a test called polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to identify the bacteria C. burnetii in a blood sample.

He said symptoms could include severe fatigue, aches and pains, fever and cough.

Complications of Q fever could include lung, liver or hear disease and about one in 10 sufferers developed ongoing problems similar to chronic fatigue.

"Anyone working with animals should talk to their employer or their doctor about the Q fever vaccine," Dr Rice said.