Q fever testing and vaccination - written by Dr Jenny Grounds

Q fever testing and vaccination


In semi-rural communities like Riddells Creek, many people work on farms, in abattoirs, and involved with transport of livestock.  All these jobs carry a risk of Q fever infection, especially when there is contact with the body fluids of animals.  Q fever has been known to live in the dry dust at the bottom of a shearing shed for up to 6 months.

Those at highest risk are breeders, abattoir workers and shearers.

Q fever is caused by a strange type of microorganism, Coxiella burnetti.  It was discovered in Queensland but is widely spread throughout the world, and lives in sheep, goats, cattle, dogs cats, bats, horses, rodents and marsupials, including kangaroos, and even birds fish, reptiles and arthropods. It is endemic in Queensland and New South Wales.


In Victoria we see cases less often, usually when a mob of cattle have been brought in from up North.

But it is a serious illness, ranging from a flu-like illness in the acute form to heart valve infection and damage, bone infection, liver infection, and chronic fatigue, in the 4% of people who don’t eliminate the organism completely.

The good news is that a vaccine is available, but the bad news is that unlike most vaccines, it causes complications if given to someone who has previously had Q fever, so people must be tested looking for evidence of past infection. And it gets more complicated: it requires not just a blood test, but also a skin test which must be “read” a week later.  So doctors are required to have special training to provide this testing and vaccination.

Fortunately, I am qualified to do the testing and vaccination for Q fever.

So if you feel you might be at risk, please contact Riddell Country Practice to arrange a visit, and to get more information.