Department of Health

Following up on potential Q fever cases

Published by Department of Health & Human Services

The Department of Health and Human Services, in conjunction with WorkSafe, is investigating five cases of the flu-like illness Q fever, all in workers at a meat processing plant in the Western suburbs.

Victoria's Chief Health Officer, Professor Charles Guest said five employees of the meat processing premises at 9 Holcourt Road in Laverton North have been diagnosed with Q fever.

"Testing has indicated four employees developed the infection before July this year, and our investigations showed an additional worker from the site was diagnosed in December last year," Prof Guest said.

"Both the Department and WorkSafe officials have visited and inspected the premises to check on the vaccination status of other staff, and arrange testing and vaccinations, as required.

"At this stage there is no broader public health issue as our investigation shows all exposures have been confined to the site and have occurred in the workplace.

"The practices which may have contributed to causing illness in staff at the premises have been discontinued.

"As a further precaution, the Department is also writing to contractors who may have visited the site since late last year to provide them with advice about the signs and symptoms of Q fever," Prof Guest said.

Checks are also being made on staff at other similar businesses located near the meat processing plant to make sure anyone handling animal products is vaccinated and therefore protected from Q fever.

Vaccination is recommended for people at risk of Q fever infection.

Prof Guest said Q fever is the name given to human infections caused by the bacterium, Coxiella burnetti.

"It is transmitted by contact with cattle, sheep and goats and other animals and is a risk for people who work with these animals or their products, such as abattoir workers and farmers.

"The signs and symptoms of Q fever are fever, usually with severe headache, weakness, muscle aches and sweats lasting two or three weeks - similar to severe influenza.

"A small percentage of people with Q fever infection report on-going fatigue and weakness that may persist for months. In some cases the illness is asymptomatic, with past exposure only becoming evident on skin and blood testing. Q fever is not spread person to person," Prof. Guest said.

Further information on Q fever is available at the Better Health ChannelExternal Link , and at the Australian Immunisation Handbook websiteExternal Link .

Reviewed 23 August 2016


Contact details

Bram Alexander Department of Health Media Unit

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