Reports suggest a recent spate of cases of Q fever in rural areas likely comes from closer human exposure to livestock during times of drought, according to Local Land Services District Veterinarian Dr Erica Kennedy, who is encouraging farmers to get tested and vaccinated.
It has been confirmed there have been reports of four cases in Nyngan alone.
Dr Kennedy said the bacteria virus can be carried by cattle, goats, sheep and other domesticated and wild animals, infecting people through contact of birthing fluids or the inhalation of dust containing dried animal secretions, which can be spread by winds.
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Symptoms often appear like a very severe flu, and include high fevers and chills, severe sweats, severe headaches, muscle and joint pains and extreme fatigue.
Dr Kennedy believes current dry conditions have increased people’s exposure levels to livestock, which could be the cause for the recent spike in cases.
“People are out feeding and around animals so much more so I wouldn’t imagine prevalence of disease in the livestock in the region is getting higher ... I would say that peoples exposure levels have increased,” she said.
Dr Kennedy said anyone in rural areas should be mindful when handling livestock, particularly birthing fluids, encouraging anyone who has contact with animals to get themselves tested then vaccinated.
“If you’re a producer out here or have anything to do with livestock you should really go and get tested and vaccinated if you haven’t before,” she said.
One of the key complications of the virus is chronic fatigue, which Dr Kennedy said reinforces why producers in the region need to get tested and vaccinated.
“The cost of chronic fatigue to a producer far outweighs the cost of vaccination.”
“I think this just highlights that producers need to focus and look after themselves so they can then continue to be productive.”
Dr Vicky Sheppeard Director Communicable Diseases NSW Health 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 vaccine is not recommended for those aged under 15 at this stage, so it is very important parents make their children wear protective clothing and equipment.”
“For those over 15, skin and blood tests are required before vaccination to make sure there is no previous exposure to Q fever bacteria.”
While the vaccination costs hundreds of dollars, the Bogan Shire Council are working to put the vaccine on the Pharmaceutical Benefits scheme to help reduce the costs.