Q fever

There is a vaccine available for Q fever but it is not on the Australian Immunisation Schedule. It is only recommended for adolescents aged ≥15 years and adults who are at risk of infection with C. burnetii. These include:

  • abattoir workers
  • farmers
  • stockyard workers
  • shearers
  • animal transporters
  • veterinarians
  • veterinary nurses
  • veterinary students
  • professional dog and cat breeders
  • agricultural college staff and students
  • wildlife and zoo workers who work with high-risk animals
  • animal refuge workers
  • laboratory workers who handle veterinary specimens or work with C. burnetii
  • other people exposed to high-risk animals

People should have both serological and skin tests before vaccination.

The disease

Q fever is caused by the bacterium Coxiella burnetii. C. burnetii infects wild and domestic animals, and their ticks. Humans are mainly infected from cattle, sheep and goats. Acute Q fever symptoms are influenza-like. However, some cases develop hepatitis and pneumonia. Complications of Q fever are endocarditis and post–Q fever fatigue syndrome.

The vaccine

Q fever vaccine is given as a single dose. Booster doses are not recommended.

People should receive serum antibody testing and a skin test before vaccination (together known as pre-vaccination testing).

Pre-vaccination testing is not needed in people who have a documented history of previous infection with Q fever or have already received a Q fever vaccine. Q fever vaccine is contraindicated in these people.

(Text adapted from the Australian Immunisation Handbook)

For more information about Q fever and the vaccine available please see here.

Page reviewed November 2018.
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