Q Fever in Humans
Q fever is caused by a bacteria that is mainly found in sheep, cattle and goats. However, it has found its way into dogs, cats, some species of ticks, and wildlife (notably kangaroos, wallabies and bandicoots).
Symptoms in Humans
- Severe influenza-like illness
- Hepatitis (swelling of the liver) and
- Damaged heart valves that may need replacing
- Chronic fatigue-like illness which can be very debilitating for years.
Q fever bacteria live in animals who are either infected or are carriers. These animals can excrete the bacteria in:
- Placenta and birth fluids (in very high numbers)
Infected dust can form from the bacteria in these tissues, fluids and excretions.
The bacteria can survive in air spaces for up to two weeks and in the soil and dust for years. The wind can spread the bacteria over several kilometres.
As kangaroo and wallaby droppings can carry the disease, extra caution should be taken in situations where the particles can become airborne. A person I know contracted it when he breathed in the dust from kangaroo droppings that he had hit with a lawn mower. He ended up needing a new heart valve and nearly died.
People who work or breed with animals, or work in outdoor areas frequented by wildlife, need to have a test first to ensure they don’t already have immunity from previous low-level exposure. If that’s clear, they can have a vaccine against Q Fever.