THE New South Wales government will invest $200,000 on research into an improved vaccine for Q Fever and $275,000 into an education campaign.
The bacterial infection is spread to humans from animals and symptoms include high fevers and chills, severe sweats, severe headaches, muscle and joint pains and extreme fatigue.
The current vaccine is not suitable for people aged under 15 and requires screening to prevent severe reactions in those who have had previous exposure to Q fever.
Director of health protection for NSW Health, Dr Jeremy McAnulty, said yesterday the research funding will assist the Australian Rickettsial Reference Laboratory, working with the Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute at Camden, to develop an improved vaccine.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard, joined by Bronnie Taylor, parliamentary secretary to the deputy premier and southern NSW, kicked off the Q Fever campaign at the Sydney Royal Easter Show urging farmers, vets and rural workers to be vaccinated.
“Working on the land is tough enough without being bedridden or even hospitalised for months on end due to this debilitating disease,” Mr Hazzard said.
“Q Fever is preventable through a lifelong vaccination so I strongly urge those at risk to ensure they are protected.”
Ms Taylor said as a former rural nurse, she knows that prevention is the best cure.
“But the first step is awareness and we need to get the industry and community talking about Q Fever transmission risks.”
Dr McAnulty said last year more than 200 people contracted Q Fever in NSW. They were mostly males aged between 40 and 70, and almost half ended up in hospital.
“People aged over 15 living or working on the land should talk to their GP about getting a vaccination as the illness can affect your entire working life.”
The NSW Government has worked with the Royal Agricultural Society, NSW Farmers’ Association, the NSW Country Women’s Association and SafeWork NSW to develop the Q fever education campaign and has launched an online learning module to help GPs recognise symptoms and diagnose Q fever, with almost 250 already enrolled.
Improved vaccine is needed in rural areas
NSW Farmers Q fever spokesperson, Alexandra Bunton, said regional communities in NSW would benefit from an improved vaccine.
“Q fever is a serious health concern for our members working in the agricultural industry.
“The current vaccine for Q fever is costly, difficult to administer, and not widely available in regional, rural, and remote communities,” Ms Bunton said.
“The inaccessibility of this vaccine means that many people at risk of contracting Q fever remain unvaccinated.”
Ms Bunton said that a vaccine that is simple, safe, and effective will make a considerable difference to the incidence rate of Q fever in Australia.
“It will improve occupational health and safety and protect wider communities from environmental exposure to the disease.”
Ms Bunton said that agricultural and rural industry bodies were united in the fight against Q fever, which is often overlooked in rural health discussion.
“NSW is taking the lead on Q fever prevention in Australia. NSW Farmers is proud to stand with NSW Health in ensuring we can reduce its impact on our members and the communities that support them,” Ms Bunton said.