Six local Q fever victims found

REPORTS of the little known Q fever on the Coffs Coast are causing concern to residents and health authorities.

There are unconfirmed reports of up to six cases presenting at the Coffs Harbour Health Campus during the past six weeks.

Q Fever is a disease contracted by infection from bacteria found typically in the urine, faeces or milk from cattle and sheep.

The director of public health for the North Coast, Paul Corben, said there was a vaccine available for those working with animals, like vets and abattoir workers, but it was a two-step process which involved a skin test and blood sample before the doctor made a decision, because if the person showed evidence of prior immunity, the vaccine caused “a nasty local reaction”.

He said the symptoms of Q fever included a high fever, chills and sweats, headache and muscle and joint pain and the spectrum of illness associated with the disease ranged from mild to serious, with one of the complications being endocarditis – an inflammation around the heart.

Mr Corbin said while they had seen a couple of probable or confirmed cases of Q fever from south of Coffs Harbour to as far north as Woolgoolga, there was nothing that warranted extra follow-up or indicated a higher risk than normal.

He said the North Coast averaged about 40 confirmed cases of Q fever annually.

A reader who contacted The Advocate said one man from Emerald Beach had died and she had almost lost a friend this week, who was now in the intensive care unit. She believed the cases were focused on the northern beaches.

“It is not where you would normally find Q fever,” Mr Corben said.

“But it is a hardy bacterium and very persistent in the environment.

“We have done normal follow-up and there is nothing that links those people together.

“We are still waiting for some lab reports. You traditionally think of Q fever as associated with farm areas but there have been recent outbreaks in other areas.

“There was one in Sydney last year associated with cats.”

Mr Corben said Q fever was particularly likely to be associated with animal birthing times.

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